Ian James

Ian James

Journalist investigating water issues, climate change and other topics in Arizona and the West. Wrote the series “Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater,” about the depletion of aquifers and the consequences for 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.



Air pollution is taking a deadly toll on the U.S.-Mexico border

Cities on the border suffer in toxic air. The pollution is making people sick and cutting lives short. Little is being done to stop it.
The Desert Sun Link to Story

This river is too toxic to touch, and people live right next to it

The New River is filled with sewage and toxic pollution. Despite more than $90 million spent, the Mexican and U.S. governments have failed to clean it up. The Río Nuevo flows north from Mexico into the United States, passing through a gap in the border fence. The murky green water reeks of sewage and carries soapsuds, pieces of trash and a load of toxic chemicals from Mexicali, a city filled with factories that manufacture products from electronics to auto parts.
The Desert Sun Link to Story

In this water-starved town, one farmer is trying to hold on

Citrus groves spread out in rows across the desert in Borrego Springs, forming a lush green oasis against a backdrop of bone-dry mountains. When the grapefruit and lemon trees bloom on Jim Seley’s farm, the white blossoms fill the air with their sweet scent. His father founded the farm in 1957, and Seley has been farming here since 1964.
The Desert Sun Link to Story

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.
The Desert Sun Link to Story

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.
The Desert Sun Link to Story

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

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

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.
The Desert Sun/USA Today Link to Story

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.
The Desert Sun/USA Today Link to Story

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.
The Desert Sun/USA Today Link to Story

Review of Nestlé water permit neglected for decades

High in the San Bernardino Mountains, on a steep slope covered with brush and ferns, a bunker-like stone structure protrudes from the mountainside. Behind its locked metal doors, water is collected from wells and flows into a pipe to fill bottles of Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water. Forest Service has long been allowing Nestle to pipe water out of the national forest from a collection of wells using a permit that lists an expiration date of 1988.
The Desert Sun Link to Story

As climate changes, Joshua trees dying in national park

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK – It's one of the most picturesque desert landscapes on the planet: the crooked, prickly branches of Joshua trees jutting skyward in fantastic shapes against backdrops of granite boulders. But in parts of Joshua Tree National Park, these iconic trees are gradually dying out.
The Desert Sun Link to Story


Ian James

Ian James is a reporter with The Arizona Republic who focuses on water and the environment. He has written extensively about climate change and water scarcity in the West. He wrote a 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 previously worked for The Desert Sun and the Associated Press. As the AP’s bureau chief in Venezuela, he covered Hugo Chavez’s presidency. He also worked for the AP as a correspondent in the Caribbean region, an editor on the International Desk in New York and 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.