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.



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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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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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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As the Salton Sea recedes, a rush to cover up dry lakebed

On the bottom of what used to be a shallow bay, bulldozers and excavators are clawing into the dry lakebed. Over the past decade, the shore of the Salton Sea has receded more than a mile at Red Hill Bay, leaving a dusty plain of salt-laden soil that crunches and crumbles underfoot. Workers have been using machines to dig down to a clay layer, starting to build berms so the area can be flooded and transformed into more than 500 acres of wetlands.
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Bottling water without scrutiny

Miles from the nearest paved road in the San Bernardino National Forest, two sounds fill a rocky canyon: a babbling stream and the hissing of water flowing through a stainless steel pipe. From wells that tap into springs high on the mountainside, water gushes down through the pipe to a roadside tank.
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Review of Nestle 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.
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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, two 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.