“Special Report: Quenching Our Future”

El Paso Times  
November 16, 2014 

The most important project the El Paso Times undertook the past year was an extensive analysis of the availability and condition of the region’s water now and in the future. Veteran reporter Marty Schladen was just the person with the tenacity, experience and skill to do it and get it right.

Accompanied by photojournalist Mark Lambie, Marty set out to analyze the conditions in the Rio Grande Basin, the policies that govern water use, and what the region’s water future holds.

That took them to Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent where a catastrophic drought forced policy makers to come together to find solutions. Australia was to serve as a model of how El Paso and the borderland region might address the issue.

The trip was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Solutions Journalism Network, which encourages news organizations to develop stories that place as much emphasis on looking for solutions as they do on exposing important problems.

Marty interviewed policy makers, farmers, residents and numerous other sources. He toured the land, its rivers, its farms, its water systems. As part of the project, Marty also traveled to a conference of water managers in Las Vegas, where experts discussed ways to ensure taps never run dry in some of the largest, driest metropolitan areas of the country. He also drove to Colorado, where he learned about the Colorado River and Hoover Dam. And he traveled along the Rio Grande, on which El Paso depends for its water.

Behind the scenes, Marty worked extensively with the University of Texas at El Paso’s science faculty, who not only served as subject-matter experts but also helped identify other sources around the world to ensure the most extensive reporting possible.

The Times’ ongoing project, “Quenching Our Future,” launched in November 2014 with a five-part series looking at what the southwest could learn from Australia’s drought and how the city of El Paso plans to wean itself from river water, among other topics.

Paired with interactive digital maps, photo galleries and informative videos, the stories took readers on a trip through Australia and down the Rio Grande to help them better grasp the issue.

As a result of the project, Data from NASA satellites will now be used by El Paso hydrologists in their studies and forecasts–a connection that had not existed before the Times’ report. That development will be part of the next series of stories.

The next series of stories will look at improving water conservation and policy alternatives as the state legislative session begins, among other related topics. A town hall for and with congressional and legislative leaders is also in the works.

Marty clearly immersed himself in the project that we’re sure will spark action and have a lasting impact on the community–the cornerstone of investigative reporting. For his work, we proudly nominate Marty for the Star Reporter of the Year.

LINK to story online

Submitted by Trish Long.

Headliners Foundation