Elemental: Covering Sustainability

A multimedia collaboration between public radio and public television stations in Colorado, Arizona and California.

The 1922 agreement that governs the Colorado River is flawed. Why not fix it?

GREELEY, Colo. – Colorado River water managers have plenty to argue about, including how they should deal with lower water levels caused in part by higher temperatures, long-term drought and increasing population. But there’s one thing on which nearly everyone who relies on the river can agree. The foundational document that divvies up the water ...

Nov. 16, 2018
Hunters help safeguard Arizona’s deer and elk from chronic wasting disease

GREER – On a chilly fall morning in eastern Arizona, families taking part in a youth hunting camp awoke before dawn to hunt elk. Gage Martinez, 14, was one of the last to shoot an elk, but by midmorning, it was skinned and hanging from a tree by its hind legs. “I was so excited, ...

Nov. 13, 2018
Southern California fires: 2 dead, hundreds of homes destroyed, nearly 100,000 acres burned

The wildfires sweeping across Southern California have destroyed hundreds of homes, killed at least two people and injured several more, and ravaged beloved landmarks and park space. Here’s the latest on the Woolsey Fire burning near Malibu as of Tuesday. Thousands of firefighters remain on the line Tuesday, working to contain the fire, which has ...

Nov. 13, 2018
Covering sustainability in the Southwest

What is sustainability? Sustainability is improving how we live day to day so that the seeds we plant can yield crops for decades to come. Elemental covers urbanization, climate change, water and renewable energy in Arizona, Colorado and California. Our mission is to create original content about the world we live in and what the ...

Nov. 11, 2018
Coloradans reject setback restrictions on new oil and gas development

DENVER – Colorado oil and gas companies landed a significant victory election night as voters rejected sweeping restrictions on the booming industry. Proposition 112 would have required any new oil and gas development that’s not on federal land to be set back at least 2,500 feet — almost half a mile — from homes and ...

Nov. 7, 2018
Renewable energy proposition defeated in Arizona

PHOENIX – Arizona voters have overhelmingly rejected a proposition that would have required the state’s regulated utilities to get 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. The current standard which sets a goal of 15 percent renewable energy from wind and solar by 2025, will remain the benchmark that governs the 16 ...

Nov. 7, 2018
Down in the mud: Arizona researchers probe seabed for clues about monsoons

TUCSON – Thunder and lightning. Dust and wind. Flash floods. These hallmarks of the North American monsoon are well-known to Arizonans, and new research indicates these impressive storms have been a part of the Southwest’s climate for millions of years. Jessica Tierney, a geologist and associate professor at the University of Arizona, leads a research ...

Nov. 5, 2018
Is the changing climate making you anxious? You’re not alone.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – We love our rivers, our mountains, our forests, deserts and wildlife in the West. They’re part of our economies, our lifestyles and our identity. But that very connection makes us vulnerable to a growing mental health problem: climate anxiety. Wander around any town center or school campus around Colorado Springs and ...

Oct. 30, 2018
Arizona national parks need $531 million for maintenance, behind California, Virginia

GRAND CANYON – Arizona’s national parks are feeling their age and need a $531 million makeover on hundreds of roads and buildings that serve millions of annual visitors, park officials said. It’s a problem in national parks around the country, but financial rescue may be edging closer. The Grand Canyon, Petrified National Forest and other ...

Oct. 29, 2018
Renewable energy proposition electrifies supporters and opponents

PHOENIX – More than $40 million has been spent to fight for and against a ballot initiative that would change the future of Arizona’s energy mix. Proposition 127 has also been the subject of an Arizona Supreme Court lawsuit and a battle over claims that language from the Attorney General’s Office undermined the initiative. If ...

Oct. 24, 2018
LA program would let renters plug into the benefits, good karma of solar

LOS ANGELES – It’s been hard for most renters to benefit from solar energy. Rooftops are controlled by landlords, who may not be interested in renewable power. But that could change. A new Los Angeles Department of Water and Power program called Shared Solar would let renters buy electricity from solar panels installed on government ...

Oct. 22, 2018
Biologists scour Colorado River to help endangered species survive

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The temperature is hovering around 90 degrees as Dale Ryden and I float down the Colorado River near Grand Junction. The turbid water looks inviting, a blessed reprieve from the heat, but if either of us jumped in, we’d be electrocuted. “It can actually probably be lethal to people if you ...

Oct. 15, 2018
‘Somebody’s going to have to use less’: Colorado River managers grapple with drought

PAGE – Years into a record-breaking drought across the Southwest, officials of the seven states along the Colorado River finally forged an agreement in 2007 on how to deal with future water shortages. Then they quietly hoped that wet weather would return. It didn’t. Those states now are back at the negotiating table to hammer ...

Oct. 11, 2018
Arizona county vaccinates residents after sewage spill in Mexico

NACO – Francisco Romo wasn’t sure why volunteers had come to his small home to vaccinate him and his wife, Lydia, but the elderly couple complied. They’re now protected against hepatitis A, B and tetanus. The reason for the house call lies just a few yards from the Romos’ house. A burst pipeline had been ...

Oct. 10, 2018
Arizona farmers face tough choices planning for water cuts

PHOENIX – Farmers are in a tough spot as Arizona continues critical negotiations over expected cuts in Colorado River water allocations. Farmers in Pinal County might be in an even tougher spot. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the Colorado River system, is likely to be “in shortage” in 2020. A shortage declaration from the ...

Oct. 9, 2018
Central Arizona farmers face tough choices planning for water cuts

PHOENIX – Farmers between Phoenix and Tucson, in Pinal County, are in a tough spot as Arizona continues critical negotiations over expected cuts in Colorado River water allocations. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the Colorado River system, is likely to be “in shortage” in 2020. A shortage declaration from the Bureau of Reclamation would ...

Oct. 9, 2018
Coloradans increasingly identify as ‘conservationist,’ but will that drive them to the polls?

Kirk Klancke’s voting past makes him a unique political animal. It has nothing to do with his party affiliation as a longtime registered Republican in Grand County, Colorado. What’s different is that he has defined his politics based on water conservation and the environment. “Keeping our environment healthy has to be one of the most ...

Oct. 5, 2018
Treatment plant battles leaking sewage pipe, heavy metals that kill key microbes

NOGALES – A transborder pipeline that brings millions of gallons of raw sewage from Mexico to the U.S. faces challenges on two fronts. The pipe is nearly 70 years old and increasingly prone to leaksand heavy metals in the wastewater are causing problems at the Arizona plant where it’s treated. Every day, 14 million gallons ...

Oct. 3, 2018
Why do we keep building houses in places that burn down?

It’s a real-estate paradox: The most desirable places to live also are among the most susceptible to wildfires. Mansions in the Santa Monica Mountains, tiny cabins tucked into the Angeles National Forest and homes at the edges of subdivisions all are beautiful because they’re surrounded by undeveloped land. But that land is a tinderbox. Every ...

Oct. 2, 2018
Congress fails to renew federal Land and Conservation Fund

APACHE JUNCTION – Richard Bruner loves Lost Dutchman State Park, nestled at the base of the Superstition Mountains. “Just the beauty of it. It’s amazing out here,” the retired Floridian said after a 5-mile morning walk. “When you get higher up, you can hear the wind blow. When there’s nobody around, there’s no sounds. There’s ...

Sep. 30, 2018

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