Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "groundwater" ...

  • The Record / NorthJersey.com: Toxic Secrets

    Record reporters explore a DuPont site's history to uncover why a plume of toxic groundwater remains under more than 400 Pompton Lakes, N.J., homes almost 30 years after the chemical company agreed to clean it up.
  • The Journal by KLC: Ogallala Aquifer

    This 7,000-word story by investigative reporter Karen Dillon outlines why it's so difficult for farmers, state officials and local governments to slow the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, a vital economic resource for western Kansas. It is based on water-use data acquired through a state open records request. The information helps illustrate the scale of aquifer's depletion and who is most responsible. The Journal is the first publication to our knowledge that has used public records to detail the 150 largest users of the aquifer's groundwater over the past 13 years. This list serves an important public interest since groundwater belongs to the people of Kansas under state law.
  • Potter County, Pennsylvania: Private & Public Drinking Water Sources Contamination by Illegal Chemicals

    Public Herald broke the story about groundwater and surface water contamination from drilling operations by JKLM Energy in Potter County that impacted private and public water supplies. Since our first breaking report, we have been contacted by residents who informed us that they were not notified that the local groundwater had been contaminated, continued to use their water and experience stomach and digestive pain and discomfort. County officials applaud the industry for being "responsible" despite illegal operations and a refusal by the company to release a full list of chemicals that contaminated water sources.
  • The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater

    The historic agreement reached in Paris in December that will curb carbon emissions is heartening, but oil isn’t the only resource being pumped out of the ground at an alarming rate—with catastrophic consequences for the planet. In an eye-opening series for USA Today, The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, CA, and other Gannett newspapers, Pulitzer Center grantees Ian James and Steve Elfers investigate the consequences of groundwater depletion, an overlooked global crisis. “Groundwater is disappearing beneath cornfields in Kansas, rice paddies in India, asparagus farms in Peru and orange groves in Morocco,” writes Ian. “As these critical water reserves are pumped beyond their limits, the threats are mounting for people who depend on aquifers to supply agriculture, sustain economies and provide drinking water. In some areas, fields have already turned to dust and farmers are struggling.” Climate change will only exacerbate the crisis, yet few seem to be taking this existential threat seriously. “Even as satellite measurements have revealed the problem’s severity on a global scale, many regions have failed to adequately address the problem,” says Ian. “Aquifers largely remain unmanaged and unregulated, and water that seeped underground over tens of thousands of years is being gradually used up.”
  • Unchecked irrigation threatens to sap Minnesota groundwater

    This project yielded both a radio report and an online story that documented widespread illegal crop irrigation in Minnesota, a normally water-rich state that saw several instances of diminishing groundwater supplies during recent droughts. MPR found compelling evidence that about a third of the more than 1000 irrigation wells drilled in the state between 2008 and 2012 operated illegally without a permit for a time, some of them continuing to operate illegally. They used satellite photographs to show that many of the unpermitted wells were near operating irrigation systems.
  • Aquifer at Risk

    In the series “Aquifer at Risk,” The Desert Sun revealed significant declines in groundwater levels in the Palm Springs area and exposed how water agencies in the California desert haven’t adequately addressed the problem of falling water tables. Through an analysis of water agencies’ records, the newspaper found that the aquifer’s levels have plummeted over the years despite imported flows of water – a situation that poses serious long-term risks for an area that has sold itself as a desert oasis for tourists and retirees. The series examined the causes and impacts of groundwater depletion in California, and pinpointed groundwater pumping by golf courses as a major contributor to the problem in the Coachella Valley. The series prompted the area’s largest water district to make a major policy shift, led to the formation of a golf water conservation task force, and magnified concerns that California’s approach to managing groundwater has serious flaws.
  • Farmers vs. fish: Wisconsin's groundwater crisis

    Across central Wisconsin, in a region known as the Central Sands, residents have watched water levels in lakes and small streams drop for years. In a state with about 15,000 lakes and more than a quadrillion gallons of groundwater, it is hard to believe that water could ever be in short supply. Experts say, however, that the burgeoning number of so-called high-capacity wells mostly for irrigated agriculture, is drawing down some ground and surface water.
  • Botswana: Diamond Hopes, Diamond Blues

    After diamonds were discovered 50 years ago, Botswana transformed itself from one the poorest countries in the world to an “African Miracle,” complete with one of the highest GDPs on the continent and stable democratic governance. This allusion of harmonious prosperity, however, is threatened by drastic changes to its geography. Rapid development has led to rapid desertification, marked by eroded land, dried rivers, deep boreholes, and the expanding Kalahari. Semi-arid and landlocked, Botswana is no stranger to droughts and low rainfall. Soon, it will be one of the first countries to experience the evaporation of its already limited groundwater supply, according to the World Economic Forum. What exhausts the water supply and threatens Botswana’s fragile ecosystems are exactly its most vital economic sectors. Livestock production, communal and commercial, expands further and further into the Kalahari Sandveld, uncontrolled and often encouraged by the government. As a result, boreholes are drilled 200 meters deep across the desert landscape of overgrazed vegetation. Meanwhile, Botswana’s diamond mines, accounting for more than a third of the national GDP, extract great amounts of water at no cost. Unrestricted, the mines continue to drain the aquifers and, in the process, limit the access rights of small farmers and minority tribes.
  • Poison in the Water

    “Poison in the Water” is a WNCN investigation that exposes how state government failed to warn families that the water they were drinking could be killing them. Through six weeks of research and digging through hundreds of FOIA documents, WNCN uncovered the source of the contamination in a Wake Forest, N.C. community and revealed state regulators ignored their own evidence of the danger. “Poison in the Water” held the powerful accountable and sparked calls for state legislative change. As a result, national groundwater advocate, Erin Brockovich, visited the Wake Forest families.
  • "Tainted Water"

    For more than 20 years, the harmful chemical perchlorate has seeped into San Bernardino County's groundwater. The seep is thought to have started at a local dump site; however, records about the site were lost in the late 1980s by "two state regulatory agencies." The problem wasn't reported again until 1997, but warnings were "dismissed" by the county. The site was "rediscovered" in 2001, but it wasn't until 2009 that the county got serious about stopping the chemical seep. It is estimated that the cleanup operation will be completed by 2013.