Published: June 26, 2019

The Water Desk—an independent news initiative at the University of Colorado Boulder dedicated to expanding coverage of Western water issues—is now accepting grant applications.

Funding from Water Desk grants will help journalists and media organizations enhance their ability to cover the scientific, economic, political and social aspects of water issues.

Applications for 2019 are being accepted in two categories: Standard grants—capped at $10,000—will be accepted until July 15, with recipients likely announced in September. Micro-grants—capped at $1,000—will be reviewed on a rolling basis until December 1, or until funding for this year’s program is exhausted.

Based in the College of Media, Communication and Information’s Center for Environmental Journalism, The Water Desk is funded through support from the Walton Family Foundation. This journalism initiative has editorial independence from both the foundation and university. To learn more and apply, see the FAQ section below and visit the program’s grants page.

FAQ (view full version)

How does your grantmaking program for journalists work?
As described on our grants page, The Water Desk runs two grantmaking programs:

  1. Micro-grants cannot exceed $1,000 and are meant to pay for discrete expenses that are necessary to produce content or advance a journalist’s professional development. Applications for micro-grants will be reviewed on a rolling basis until December 1, 2019, or until our funding for this year’s program is exhausted. We plan to make decisions on applications within one month of their submission.
  2. Standard grants cannot exceed $10,000 and are meant to support significant reporting efforts that lead to the publication of content connected to Western water issues and the Colorado River Basin, as defined above. Applications for the 2019 standard grants will be accepted until July 15, 2019. We anticipate announcing recipients of the standard grants in September.  

Who is eligible to apply for grants?
Before applying for either a micro-grant or standard grant, please ensure that you are eligible to receive funding from The Water Desk:

  • Only journalists (either individuals or media outlets) may apply for funding.
  • Individuals and media outlets may only submit one application per calendar year for the micro-grants and one application per calendar year for the standard grants.
  • Journalists and media outlets are welcome to collaborate and submit a joint proposal. Regardless of how many journalists/outlets are part of the application, the cap on standard grants is $10,000.
  • Recipients of either micro-grants or standard grants should complete the work they outline in their proposals within six months of receiving funding.

What geography is covered by the grants?
The Water Desk will support journalism that focuses on water issues involving the seven states of the Colorado River Basin—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming—as well as the borderlands of Northwest Mexico.

Can I receive both a micro-grant and a standard grant?
It’s OK for the same journalist or outlet to receive both a micro-grant and a standard grant within a single calendar year so long as they are for different projects.

What role do your funders play in the grantmaking?
Other than providing the funding for the grants, our supporters do not have any say over the decisions related to the grants or The Water Desk’s editorial content. Funders of The Water Desk have no right of review and no influence on stories or other journalistic content that is produced with the support of these grants.

Who will judge the applications and decide on the grants?
Micro-grants will be reviewed and approved by CEJ Director Tom Yulsman and Water Desk Director Mitch Tobin. For the standard grants, applications will be reviewed and approved by a committee.

How else do you work with journalists?
The Water Desk partners with Lighthawk, a nonprofit that can provide free flights and allow journalists to integrate aerial reporting/footage into their work. Another partner is This American Land, a conservation news magazine that produces video segments for television stations.

If you’re interested in using either program to enhance your coverage of Western water issues, please contact Water Desk Director Mitch Tobin at or 303-330-9487.

How can I stay in touch with The Water Desk?
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