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Ian James

Ian James

Journalist investigating water issues, climate change and other topics in California and the West. Wrote the series “Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater,” about the depletion of aquifers and the impacts on farming communities in the U.S., India, Peru and Morocco. Previously covered Hugo Chávez's presidency in Venezuela and other news in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Toxic dust and asthma plague Salton Sea communities

A serious asthma crisis is afflicting communities around the Salton Sea. The problem is about to get worse.
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As the Salton Sea deteriorates, birds are disappearing

A decade ago, Guy McCaskie would stand on the shore of the Salton Sea and marvel at the vast masses of birds that congregated on the water and flew overhead. Nowadays he looks out over the lake and is saddened by how few birds he sees. Most of the American white pelicans have disappeared. So have most of the double-crested cormorants and eared grebes.
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Is Nestlé bottled water actually 'spring water'?

Nestled in thick brush high in the San Bernardino Mountains, bunker-like structures protrude from the rocky slopes. Built with stone and concrete and secured with metal doors and padlocks, these vaults are connected to a series of stainless steel pipelines that run down the mountainside like veins.
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Shrink this national monument in the Mojave Desert? Conservationists are appalled

When the sun goes down over the Cadiz Dunes, the fading light turns the rippled sand a brilliant orange that glows against a backdrop of jagged mountains and purple sky. These majestic dunes are a central piece of Mojave Trails National Monument, which President Barack Obama established 18 months ago in the heart of the Mojave Desert.
The Desert Sun Link to Story
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Pumped Dry: The global crisis of vanishing groundwater

Much of the planet relies on groundwater. And in places around the world – from the United States to Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America – so much water is pumped from the ground that aquifers are being rapidly depleted and wells are going dry. Groundwater is disappearing beneath cornfields in Kansas, rice paddies in India, asparagus farms in Peru and orange groves in Morocco.
USA Today/The Desert Sun Link to Story
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Pumped beyond limits, many U.S. aquifers in decline

SUBLETTE, Kansas – Just before 3 a.m., Jay Garetson’s phone buzzed on the bedside table. He picked it up and read the text: “Low Pressure Alert.”. He felt a jolt of stress and his chest tightened. He dreaded what that automated message probably meant: With the water table dropping, another well on his family’s farm was starting to suck air.
USA Today/The Desert Sun Link to Story
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How unchecked pumping is sucking aquifers dry in India

DAPEGAON, India – At dawn, as bells ring out from Hindu shrines, the people of this village get in line for water. Wells have been going dry across the countryside, and the village’s one remaining well yields just enough to run the communal taps for an hour or two a day. In front of the spigots, people leave their empty water jugs and buckets arranged in rows, and they crowd around to collect what they can while the taps are running.
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The costs of Peru’s farming boom

ICA, Peru – The fight began early one morning on a sandy dirt road between fields of lima beans, where farmers discovered an excavator machine digging a trench for a water pipe. Infuriated that the pipe would carry water pumped from beneath their farms, a crowd gathered and drove away the crew of workers in a fit of shouts.
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Dead orchards and barren fields in Morocco

SEBT EL GUERDANE, Morocco – On a plot of farmland where goats wander among the weeds, a two-story house made of stone and concrete looks out over what was once a lush grove of orange trees. Now those trees have been ripped from the ground, leaving bare earth and dead stumps. Groundwater has been severely overpumped by farms in Morocco’s Souss-Massa region, and the water table has fallen dramatically.
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California in overdraft

PASO ROBLES, California – Two decades ago, the rolling hills of Paso Robles were mostly covered with golden grass and oak trees. Now the hills and valleys are blanketed with more than 32,000 acres of grapevines. Surging demand for wine has brought an explosion of vineyards, and along with it heavy pumping of groundwater.
The Desert Sun Link to Story
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Losing snow in a changing climate

Among firs and cedars high in the Sierra Nevada, scientists are using an array of instruments to monitor the health of the forest, measure the snowpack and track the water that melts and seeps into the soil. As they collect data, they’re taking snapshots of a landscape in the midst of major changes.
The Desert Sun Link to Story
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A new fight over water in the California desert

Beside the winding curves of the Colorado River, the Palo Verde Valley spreads out in a lush plain in the middle of the desert, a farming oasis filled with canals and fields of hay. For 12 years, the valley’s farmers have been participating in a program that pays them to leave some of their lands unplanted and fallow, helping to slake the thirst of Los Angeles and cities across Southern California.
The Desert Sun Link to Story

About

Ian James

Ian James is a reporter with The Desert Sun in Palm Springs who focuses on water and environmental issues as a member of the newspaper's investigative team. He has written extensively about drought, climate change and water scarcity in the West. He wrote a 2015 USA Today/Desert Sun series about the problem of groundwater depletion and how it's affecting farming communities in the United States, India, Peru and Morocco. His work has won honors including the APME Digital Storytelling Award, three CNPA awards for Environmental Reporting, an American Meteorological Society science journalism award, and the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism. He joined The Desert Sun in 2013 after more than a decade covering international news for The Associated Press. As the AP’s bureau chief in Venezuela, he covered Hugo Chavez’s presidency and obtained a rare interview with the Venezuelan leader. He previously worked for the AP as a correspondent covering the Caribbean region, as an editor on the International Desk in New York, and as a reporter in Miami. He is the author of the book "Ninety Miles: Cuban Journeys in the Age of Castro" about the lives of three Cubans during Fidel Castro’s rule. He has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, PBS NewsHour and other television and radio programs.