Luke Runyon

I report on the Colorado River basin and water issues affecting the Western U.S. for KUNC and a network of public media stations in the southwest.

I came to KUNC in March 2013, after spending about two years as a reporter with Aspen Public Radio in Aspen, Colorado. Until September 2017, I was the Colorado reporter for Harvest Public Media, a reporting collaboration that focuses on agriculture and food issues in the Midwest and Great Plains. 

My reports are frequently featured on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Here & Now and APM's Marketplace.

Before moving to Colorado I spent a year covering local and state government for Illinois Public Radio in the state's capital. I have a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield.

The number of deaths and accidents on Colorado’s rivers is right around normal for a high flow year, according to data from the conservation group American Whitewater. 

Since early June, 12 people have died while rafting, kayaking and paddleboarding on Colorado’s rivers.

“What we’re seeing is what happens during a high water year,” said American Whitewater’s Charlie Walbridge, who has kept a record of river accidents and fatalities since 1975. He maintains the database by editing user-generated posts and combing through news articles.

Nara Bopp was working at a thrift store in Moab, Utah the morning of March 4 when her desk started moving. 

“I immediately assumed that it was a garbage truck,” Bopp said.

Groundwater pumping is causing rivers and small streams throughout the country to decline, according to a new study from researchers at the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Arizona.

(Luke Runyon/KUNC)

One morning in mid-February, David Herz went to turn on the faucet in his farmhouse outside the small western Colorado town of Paonia, and nothing came out.

 

“I thought, ‘Oh, f---. We got a problem,’” Herz said.

The Colorado River is short on water. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at a slate of proposed water projects in the river’s Upper Basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

The river and its tributaries provide water for 40 million people in the Southwest. For about the last 20 years, demand for water has outstripped the supply, causing its largest reservoirs to decline.

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