“Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater,” a joint project of The Desert Sun and USA Today, has won the 2016 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism. The prize goes to Desert Sun reporter Ian James, USA Today’s Steve Elfers, a videojournalist, and Steve Reilly, a reporter and data specialist.
Supported by a team of journalists and a travel grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, James and Elfers traveled to farms in California, Kansas, India, Peru, and Morocco. In stories, photographs and information graphics, they identified a water crisis that exists not just in the West but across the country and the globe. Through interviews with scientists, farmers, government officials and residents, they illustrated how the unchecked use of underground water threatens not just current but future water supplies. The series also spawned a documentary that was shown at film festivals in Sonoma and Palm Springs, Calif., as well as Toronto and Washington D.C.
Special Recognition was given to “Killing the Colorado,” a five-part series by ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarten, exposing the western water crisis as the result of generations of legislative and legal decisions influenced by greed, political cowardice and willful ignorance of basic science. Produced in partnership with the online science and environment publication Matter.