Gannett Investigates the Global Groundwater Crisis

A five-part series by Desert Sun reporter Ian James and USA Today photographer Steve Elfers.

Over a period of eight months, with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Desert Sun reporter Ian James and USA Today managing editor of multimedia Steve Elfers investigated a growing, global crisis: the depletion of the world’s groundwater. Today, their chastening five-part series continues in print with a focus on India.

Per the front-page annotations above, the series began with articles about California and the U.S. and concludes in print next weekend with looks at Peru and Morocco. All portions of the investigation are available online. From today’s India report:

Falling water tables and crushing burdens of debt have contributed to a growing sense of desperation in the western state of Maharashtra, where farmers have been committing suicide in large numbers. Some families have turned to chopping down trees on their land to sell off the wood. Many young people have given up farming and moved away to cities to look for work.

In large portions of India, from the plains that spread out below the Himalayas to the country’s southern plateau, water is being quickly drained from the ground and aquifers are rapidly declining. In some areas, government data show groundwater levels have dropped by an average of more than 30 feet since 2005…

Already in parts of India, people say water has become their biggest worry. The shortages have become so acute in some places that families have had to spend half the day or more searching for drinking water, walking for miles at a time.

The presentation of the series on the Web is stellar, with video, statistical data and navigation sidebars dividing each article into an introduction and titled chapters. Collectively titled “Pumped Dry,” this is reporting on a grand and sobering scale.