FRONTLINE: Environmental programs

From the archives: A recent PBS FRONTLINE program produced in collaboration with NPR and IRW examined the ballooning plastic waste worldwide and what industry experts knew from the outset what was and wasn’t possible to recycle.

water pouring out of pipe

Looming crisis

Energy companies and big industry are drawing vast amounts of water from northwest Louisiana. And the withdrawals are allowing salt water to move in, threatening the main source of drinking water for a growing population of more than half a million.

remains of destroyed water tower

Solving problems now

While climate change has brought an abundance of water to Louisiana from above, it also threatens valuable water below — the groundwater in the state’s aquifers that the majority of the population relies on for drinking water.

industrial plants with smoke

An aquifer at ‘special risk’

The Southern Hills aquifer’s water is clean and pure. Baton Rouge residents brag about its taste. And industries prefer it because it’s cheaper to access than river water, which needs expensive treatment. But the aquifer is being depleted faster than it is being replenished.

man in field next to pipe spewing water

The price? Free, while it lasts

A centuries-old law gives Louisiana landowners “ultimate dominion” over the groundwater beneath their property. That means farmers, manufacturers and homeowners can take as much as they want, when they want it — no fees required.

The water problems

Groundwater levels in and around Louisiana are falling faster than almost anywhere else in the country, according to USGS data and an investigation by IRW and WWNO/WRKF.

water pouring out of pipe

The water stories

The stories IRW published in 2020 on water problems in Florida and California  illuminate some of the many water issues prevalent in the country today.