Document Type

Thesis

Publication Date

2020

Advisor

Claire Haeg

Abstract

The cultivation of life within the American Southwest would not have been possible without the Colorado River Basin. The water in the basin today maintains 40 million people and one-twelfth the American economy. As a result of the significance of this river, the Colorado is one of the most regulated waters in the world, yet drought concerns continue to proliferate due to climate change. Drawing from communication and political science literature, the media have frequently been cited as impacting the policy agenda, particularly local media. This paper addresses how the frequency of The Denver Post news reporting and its framing impacts state legislative bill introduction on Colorado water management—arguing that an increase in objectively framed media attention will increase the abundance of bills introduced in the Colorado state legislature. Following the review of 459 newspaper articles, and 265 introduced bills, over the period of 2008 to 2018, further analysis was determined to be necessary due to the lack of statistically significant evidence on state legislative bill introduction. This paper concludes with a call for improved data archiving and a discussion of the importance of party affiliation and changes in majority party control in dictating legislative changes to state water policy. Looking to the future, understanding factors that drive water management will be necessary to more deeply understand the longevity of this imperative resource.

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