Elemental: Covering Sustainability

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

GREELEY, Colo. – After one of the hottest and driest years on record, the Colorado River and its tributaries across the Southwest are likely headed for another year of low water. That’s according to an analysis by the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Jeff Lukas, the researcher who authored the briefing, ...

Jan. 23, 2019

PHOENIX — On the first day of the legislative session, water led Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State address. More specifically, he wants a drought plan finished — one that keeps the Colorado River system at healthy levels. Drought and over-allocation means Lake Mead is at risk of dropping really low. Taken to ...

Jan. 15, 2019

PHOENIX – The partial federal government shutdown is affecting Arizona’s painstaking work on an internal drought plan, although not enough to delay a federal deadline set for the end of this month. The Bureau of Reclamation remains open, Phoenix-area manager Leslie Meyers said, noting that the bureau’s funding was appropriated in September. The legal counsel ...

Jan. 10, 2019

COTTONWOOD – Fighting nature with nature seems like a good idea – unless nature doesn’t care about geography. Today, the effects of a federal decision made 20 years ago to use Asian beetles to slow the spread of an invasive shrub across the West are reducing nesting habitat for an endangered songbird – the southwestern ...

Jan. 9, 2019

WICKENBURG – Jerry Tyra started working underground in 1960, drilling ore samples to help mine companies figure out whether to develop a mine site. Since 2007, the 75-year-old has been doing a different kind of exploration: scouring the state for the thousands of abandoned mines some of his former employers may have left scattered throughout ...

Jan. 4, 2019

PHOENIX – Sirena Rana Dufault has hiked Mount Lemmon, outside Tucson, more times than she can say. But she still has a sense of wonder, noticing little things, including a dust-colored lizard skittering past. “Oh my gosh!” she said, scooping up the tiny creature. “Look at him! He’s adorable! … He’s like a dinosaur!” Dufault, ...

Jan. 3, 2019

PHOENIX – At 22, Carly Verbeke has been to Europe twice. But until just now, she had never been on a hike. Now, for the first time, her wheelchair is rolling past tall pines on a flat, paved trail, the smell of damp earth heavy in the air. Her chair isn’t even rated to go ...

Jan. 2, 2019

PHOENIX – A few years ago, when Caitlin Stewart announced she was going to hike all 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, people had questions. “Probably four to 10 people said, ‘Are you going to bring a machete?’” she recalled. That would be a no. She wasn’t going to take a gun, either. But the ...

Jan. 1, 2019

PHOENIX – Environmentally speaking, it’s best to reuse your holiday lights for as long as possible, or to donate them. But for the first time, Phoenix is accepting strings of lights for recycling. Residents can drop off lights at one of two transfer stations, starting the day after Christmas. “This is the first year that ...

Dec. 31, 2018

FLAGSTAFF – The Grand Canyon, carved by water over millions of years, is a geologic wonder that has inspired poets to dream and scientists to ponder. Most of us are lucky to visit once or twice in a lifetime. But for several Native American tribes, the Grand Canyon is their home. “Most Americans think Native ...

Dec. 28, 2018

GILBERT – From meat trays to mac-and-cheese cups, single-use plastics pack the grocery-store aisles and usually end up in landfills. Now, an Arizona company is on a mission to replace them with biodegradable and compostable products over the next five years. “We had the vision that the whole world was going to demand alternatives to ...

Dec. 27, 2018

PHOENIX – Ask Brian Gootee of the Arizona Geological Survey how the mountains ringing metro Phoenix formed and you’ll get what sounds like a riddle: “When you think about this flat (Salt River) valley, I think you have to kind of start over with what it wasn’t, right before it started to become what it ...

Dec. 26, 2018

TUCSON – The click of container lids and swoosh of zippers filled the air on a still morning in Saguaro National Park East. Tom Orum and his wife, Nancy Ferguson, pulled measuring equipment from the trunk of their dusty white truck, parked in a flat landscape of majestic saguaros towering over teddy bear cholla, prickly ...

Dec. 25, 2018

PHOENIX – Climate change could double your beer tab, according to a recent global study, and craft breweries fear they’ll be hurt the most. The study, published in October in the peer-reviewed online journal Nature Plants, suggests that the barley supply could decrease up to 15 percent over the next several decades due to ongoing ...

Dec. 24, 2018

PHOENIX – After he started hallucinating, John Waddell began to believe he would die. He had fallen 100 feet to the bottom of an abandoned gold mine in western Maricopa County, leaving him with a broken leg and rope-burned hands. “It’s like a black cloud that’s a little stringy, and these figures were coming out ...

Dec. 21, 2018

DENVER – Nearly half the population of the West lives in an area with potential for wildfire danger. And both the risk of fire and the population in harm’s way are rising in this fast-growing part of the nation. Eighty-four percent of the risk area has not yet been developed. “Which means the problem is ...

Dec. 10, 2018

DENVER – Nearly half the population of the West lives in an area with potential for wildfire danger. And both the risk of fire and the population in harm’s way are rising in this fast-growing part of the nation. Eighty-four percent of the risk area has not yet been developed. “Which means the problem is ...

Dec. 10, 2018
New houses, built to fire code, burned down anyway in Southern California’s 2017 Thomas Fire

LOS ANGELES – California’s building codes are not keeping up with the severe, wind-driven wildfires that are becoming the norm. Ten years ago, the state passed strict new standards for homes built in high fire-risk areas. But even homes built to those standards were destroyed in last December’s Thomas Fire. Now, homes are being rebuilt ...

Dec. 10, 2018

LOS ANGELES – California’s building codes are not keeping up with the severe, wind-driven wildfires that are becoming the norm. Ten years ago, the state passed strict new standards for homes built in high fire-risk areas. But even homes built to those standards were destroyed in last December’s Thomas Fire. Now, homes are being rebuilt ...

Dec. 10, 2018
Profits and flames: Private firefighters an option for the wealthy

The fire season across the West has been brutal. In California, the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire together left more than 88 dead. The two fires burned more than 15,000 structures and nearly 200 people are still missing. Huge fires in Nevada have burned hundreds of thousands of acres. Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico have all ...

Dec. 3, 2018

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