water

In a desert far from any city, farmers use groundwater to grow lush green hay. The hay fattens livestock all over the world. But there's a big problem: The water is drying up. Now scientists warn it will take thousands of years for an aquifer in southeastern Oregon to recover, while residents there are already hurting.

At Marjorie and John Thelen's house, the well ran dry in 2015.

"We're not ranchers. We're not growing hay. We're just retired in the country," said 72-year-old Marjorie Thelen, who moved to Oregon with her husband, John, 12 years ago.

For many people, turning on the tap or flushing the toilet is something we take for granted. But a report released Monday, called "Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States," shows that more than 2 million Americans live without these conveniences and that Native Americans are more likely to have trouble accessing water than any other group.

Something odd is happening to streams and rivers on the high plains of Kansas and Colorado. Some have disappeared.

"We would go and visit these streams, and in many cases it's like a dirt bike channel. It's no longer functioning as a stream," says Joshuah Perkin, a biologist at Texas A&M University who studies the fish that live in these streams.

Residents are desperately trying to conserve water in the Native village of Nanwalek, located on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage. The village, home to the Sugpiaq tribe, is currently in a severe drought.

Nina Kvasnikoff's family is eating off paper plates, collecting water from the ocean to flush toilets and washing themselves with sponges.

"It doesn't feel like you're clean. You feel like you're just splattering a little bit of water," she says.

The Trump administration is changing the definition of what qualifies as "waters of the United States," tossing out an Obama-era regulation that had enhanced protections for wetlands and smaller waterways.

Thursday's rollback is the first step in a process that will allow the Trump administration to create its own definition of which waters deserve federal protection. A new rule is expected to be finalized this winter.

Lenora LaVictoire / StateImpact Oklahoma

Supporters gathered at the Oklahoma State Capitol Sunday for the third Women's March in Oklahoma.

Speakers encouraged marchers to show up for all women and marginalized peopleー including the LGBTQ community and women of color. Marchers carried signs urging an end to the government shutdown, support for immigrants, protecting water rights, and encouraging women to run for office.

Women’s Marches were held across the United States over the weekend. Oklahoma organizers held their march this year on Sunday, so a delegation could attend the Washington D.C. march Saturday.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A group organized to protect an ecologically sensitive river in southeastern Oklahoma is preparing a lawsuit accusing multiple governments of violating the Endangered Species Act.

Local, state, federal and tribal governments signed off on a 2016 agreement cleared a path for Oklahoma City to divert and pump water out of the Kiamichi River and Sardis Lake to meet the growing metro’s future water needs.

The vague warning jolted citizens in and around Salem, Oregon to attention on May 29.

"Civil Emergency in this area until 1128PM," read the text message alert. "Prepare for action."

It was a ham-handed message — one that left some wondering if an attack was imminent. In fact, the danger officials wanted to warn them about wasn't coming from the sky.

It was coming from their taps.

Sue Ogrocki/AP

Scott Pruitt, the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, first came to national prominence back when he was Oklahoma's attorney general. In that role, he sued the agency he now runs 14 times, in a series of court cases alleging overreach by the federal government.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma City’s decades-long quest for a permit to pump water out of southeastern Oklahoma is over. This week, state regulators approved a key part of the city’s $1 billion-plus project to meet the metro’s long-term water needs, but residents and water rights groups say the urban victory marks a milestone — not the end of the road.

Oklahoma City has water storage rights at Sardis Lake in southeastern Oklahoma. To get it, the city plans to divert water that flows from the lake into the Kiamichi River and pump it more than a hundred miles northwest to the metro.

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