Elemental: Covering Sustainability

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

Water thieves of the West take notice: this sheriff’s deputy is watching

MONTEZUMA COUNTY, Colorado – One Sunday morning several years ago Dave Huhn got a call. He’s usually off work that day, but it was the height of irrigation season and decided to answer. The woman on the other end was frantic, screaming as she watched her 82-year-old husband from the window. Their 86-year-old neighbor was ...

Sep. 25, 2018
Intel promises to restore 100 percent of its water use. What does that mean?

PHOENIX – You may be familiar with carbon offsets, where companies or schools try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in one area to make up for emissions elsewhere. More and more, corporations are also trying to offset the water they use. Intel, for one, announced a water restoration goal last year: to restore a hundred ...

Sep. 24, 2018
Partnership between barley farmers and beer makers saves water

CAMP VERDE – Zach Hauser, like many farmers in the Verde Valley, takes pride in his land and the crops he grows. Normally this time of year, rows of corn, alfalfa, carrots and watermelon would cover his acreage. But today, two sections of his property look like a farmer’s worst nightmare: fallow land strewn with ...

Sep. 21, 2018
Art installation highlights plastic bottle use

CULVER CITY, California – Ever wonder how many recyclable bottles and cans you consume every year, or what it might look like if you tossed them all into one big pile? The Container Recycling Institute (CRI), based in Culver City, California, took the latest statistics on how many beverages people buy in plastic bottles, aluminum ...

Sep. 20, 2018
Helium producer leases land near Petrified Forest in Arizona, concerning environmentalists

PHOENIX – A Canadian energy company will add to its helium operation with more than 3,000 acres of newly leased federal land near Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona. But an environmental group and Arizona U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran worry that operations could threaten key water sources and at least two endangered species. Desert ...

Sep. 18, 2018
Questions about Navajo Generating Station’s future lead to more protests

UPDATE: On Friday, September 21, investors that had expressed interest in taking over the west’s largest coal fired power plant, the Navajo Generating Station, have ended their efforts to acquire it, according to the Fronteras Desk’s Laurel Morales. New York-based Avenue Capital and Chicago-based Middle River Power, showed initial interest, but ultimately said they could ...

Sep. 13, 2018
Caltech scientist uses drones to herd birds away from airplanes

LOS ANGELES – The danger birds pose to airplanes is no joke. In the past four years just at Los Angeles International Airport, birds and other wildlife hit aircraft more than 500 times, according to Federal Aviation Administration data. At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, wildlife hit aircraft more than 230 times from August 2014 ...

Sep. 10, 2018
China ups ante in trade war, imposes tariff that could doom U.S. paper recycling

PHOENIX – Most of the headlines from the trade war between China and the United States have focused on tariffs on aluminum and steel, but China also has placed a levy on recycled paper pulp. While not as well known, the tariff could bankrupt an already taxed recycling industry in the United States. China’s latest ...

Sep. 6, 2018
Los Angeles seeks sustainable solutions for homeless

LOS ANGELES – About 60,000 people are homeless in LA. Experts say it’s the worst city in the nation when it comes to homelessness. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared homelessness in this city a state of emergency. Garcetti says providing sustainable housing is the best solution. “Housing to me is the prism through which ...

Sep. 5, 2018
From neon orange to chocolate brown: The West’s unluckiest river takes a beating

DURANGO, Colo. – In early August 2015, Barb Horn stood on a bank of the Animas River, waiting for mine waste spilled upstream to reach the city. She and hundreds of others waited hours for the waste plume to appear, but darkness fell. The next morning, she saw the change. “It was absolutely surreal,” Horn ...

Aug. 31, 2018
Beavers: An unlikely ally in the battle against drought in the West

LANDERS, Wyo. – It’s no secret that water is a problem in the West. But what isn’t as well-known is the role the humble beaver has played in helping to maintain wetlands and ponds across the arid landscape. Their populations were decimated during the fur trade in the 20th century and their numbers dropped dramatically ...

Aug. 29, 2018
Traffic continues to be huge air polluter – but local politics makes it hard to say no to new roads.

LOS ANGELES – Based on the annual 2018 “State of the Air” report from The American Lung Association, Los Angeles was ranked the top city spot for high ozone days out of 227 metropolitan locations. Arizonans should be concerned too as the Grand Canyon state ranked eighth in the same category. And during the summer ...

Aug. 28, 2018
Record temps, fishing closures mark unusual summer in Colorado’s High Country

It’s been a hot summer across Colorado — and while usually residents can escape to the many streams or lakes to cool down, this year is different. When the water gets hot, it’s hard on the fish and fisherman. Record warmth in the Yampa and White river basins in northwest Colorado is stressing out fish ...

Aug. 27, 2018
Kombucha couture: Arizona designer looks to grow her own clothing

TEMPE – You smell it before you see it. As Galina Mihaleva opens the door to a former teachers’ lounge at the School of Art at Arizona State University, the pungent, sweet-and-sour aroma of fermenting tea assaults the senses. Inside the lounge is a makeshift lab where dozens of plastic containers, some open and others ...

Aug. 21, 2018
After 11 years, legal battles over proposed open-pit copper mine continue

WASHINGTON – A proposal for a massive open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains an hour south of Tucson, Arizona, will be back in court this month as opponents challenge permits for the project, the latest twist in an 11-year battle over the Rosemont Mine. The fight pits supporters – who say the mine ...

Aug. 17, 2018
It’s not just you. The mosquitoes really are worse this year

Can’t leave the house without getting bitten? Legs swollen from scratching? Welcome to the crowd. Because yes. The mosquitoes are worse this year. Why? There’s a new type of mosquito roaming the southern United States. You might have heard of it — it’s the aedes mosquito — and it first showed up in 2010. It’s ...

Aug. 16, 2018
Tribally owned solar power plant beats skeptics, set to expand on Navajo Nation

WASHINGTON – Deenise Becenti remembers watching this summer awhile a woman in the Navajo Nation who had been waiting more than 20 years to get electricity in her home flipped the switch to turn on the lights for the first time. “She had a whole lot of happy tears,” said Becenti, the spokeswoman for the ...

Aug. 16, 2018