Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism
Department or School/College
School of Journalism
water, invasive mussels, water monitoring, water quality, environmental justice
University of Montana
Environmental Health | Environmental Studies | Hydrology | Journalism Studies
Like much of the American West, Montana sits in the cross hairs of climate change. State drought resiliency projects and cooperative watershed management are on the rise in the face of decreased snowpack, early runoff, precipitation variability and lower seasonal stream flows. Population growth, land use practices, recreation and tourism all contribute to pressures on state water supplies.
Montana is faced with the arrival of invasive species that threaten the ecological health of its lakes, rivers and streams. State budget constraints and depressed agency capacity are hurting our ability to fend off these threats. There’s a lack of public education necessary to bolster our defenses and make combating invasive species a priority among state lawmakers.
Statewide water infrastructure is outdated, inefficient and in need of a massive overhaul. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, many of the public water systems serving Montana’s cities and towns have distribution and transmission piping that is 75 to 100 years old, with a majority experiencing significant losses of water. In 2014, the ASCE noted that more than 50 percent of these systems reported that their working capacity is five years or less.
Inadequate water infrastructure also contributes to increased public health risks to communities. State data shows that of the state’s 700 public water systems, more than 1 in 5 are currently not in compliance with monitoring and other regulatory requirements. Small public water systems are especially prone to contamination.
Together, all of these pressing problems – climatic and ecological shifts, defunded state programs or agencies, poor infrastructure and public detachment – create a complex set of obstacles to better water management. The primary goal of my Master’s Portfolio and the reporting therein is to raise awareness and effectively communicate these issues with the hope that people pay closer attention to how the state manages water resources. Another goal, in the context of each story, is to explore possible solutions and highlight the means to address, discuss and move forward with these issues. Finally, my portfolio seeks to reflect Montana voices that are directly impacted by our state’s water resources, but are often neglected.
Baker, Beau E., "Watered Down: The Challenges of Managing Water Resources in Montana" (2018). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 11165.
© Copyright 2018 Beau E. Baker