A Flood of Story Grants: SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism Awards $19,976 to Support Stories on U.S. Drinking Water and Stormwater

SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism awards
$19,976 in story project grants in FEJ Winter Cycle 2018


The Society of Environmental Journalists’ Fund for Environmental Journalism has awarded $19,976 for seven new story projects selected through the Winter 2018-2019 round of competition for stories about drinking water and stormwater in the United States.

Congratulations to the grantees!


Tony Davis for "The Colorado River: Something's Gotta Give," asking "who can and should give up water to make the overallocated river whole?"

Image of Tony DavisArizona Daily Star environmental reporter Tony Davis' interest in water dates to the week he moved to Tucson in July 1976, just as a dramatic water rate increase kicked in and triggered the recall of the City Council majority that approved it. Since then, he's written hundreds of articles on water and hundreds more on environmental issues in general for the Arizona Daily Star, two other Southwestern dailies and periodically for the biweekly High Country News magazine. He's broken repeated exposés on mining, water quality, grazing and other issues using the Freedom of Information Act and other public records. His Albuquerque Tribune project on Catron County, N.M. grazing wars won the Edward J. Meeman Award for environmental writing for small newspapers in 1996.

FEJ-funded project:


Penny Loeb for "Flood Proofing Water and Sewage Treatment Plants," on how three eastern-inland communities do (and don't) negotiate through complex regulations and multiple funding sources to resilience before treatment systems flood again. Part of a book on inland flooding, "Who'll Stop the Destruction."

Image of Penny LoebPenny Loeb was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Magazine Award, and a member of investigative teams at Newsday and U.S. News & World Report. She authored the book "Moving Mountains: How One Woman and Her Community Won Justice From Big Coal," and wrote a screenplay and produced a feature film based on the book. She is currently writing a book about flooding in four inland places in four states, "Who'll Stop the Destruction." Penny lives on a small horse farm in Loudoun County, Virginia.

FEJ-funded project:


Tara Lohan for "L.A.’s Key to Climate Resilience and Water Security," an exploration of how legacy superfund pollution in Southern California groundwater is finally being cleaned up (no thanks to the polluters) to increase climate and water resilience.

Tara Lohan has been writing about energy, water and climate for more than a decade. She is currently deputy editor of The Revelator. Her work has been published by The Nation, The American Prospect, Salon, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis and tweets from @TaraLohan.

FEJ-funded project:


Emma Penrod for "Tainted Water, " an investigation into whether regulators hid dangerous water management flaws in the Salt Lake City, Utah region.

Emma Penrod is an award-winning investigative journalist based in rural Utah who covers the intersections between science, business and government policy. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Sierra magazine, News Deeply, High Country News and in diverse local media. She is known for her deep dives and longform journalism, and is the author of two books.

FEJ-funded project:


Emily Schwing, for "Snowmelt and Honey Buckets: Digging into Water and Sanitation in Rural Alaska," an investigation into persistent water and wastewater problems in rural Alaska. More than 3,000 rural Alaska households in remote Alaska Native villages do have access to cable TV, but many still do not have running water or adequate sewage systems. State and federal agencies seem reluctant to provide solutions, due to the exorbitant costs associated with providing adequate services.

Emily Schwing is a multimedia journalist who uses story-telling to explore science, public policy and the occasional legal proceeding. Currently, she works closely with Native American tribes on tribal sovereignty, land use and management, and cultural stories in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Always one for an adventure, Emily will travel far and wide for a good story. She has reported from Far East Russia, Europe and Canada and she's found herself reporting from a few lesser known locations: an old shipping crane at a Washington state lumber yard, from inside a Minnesota wind turbine and from a South Dakota bison ranch. Emily produces work for Reveal, from the Center or Investigative Reporting and PRX, National Public Radio, Koahnic Broadcasting, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Public Radio International and the BBC. She has also contributed stories to American Public Media, Monitor Radio, Deutsche Welle and Mushing Magazine.

FEJ-funded project:


Brett Walton for "The Consolidation of U.S. Water Utilities." There are more than 50,000 community water systems in the United States. Can shrinking their number result in less polluted drinking water?

Image of Brett WaltonBrett Walton is a reporter for Circle of Blue who writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, a weekly digest of U.S. government water news. In 2018, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Sierra Club and a travel grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to cover Cape Town's water crisis. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, including first place for explanatory reporting in 2016 for a series on septic system pollution.

FEJ-funded project:

  • Special Report: "After Paradise Burned," Circle of Blue, March 6, 2019. Walton traveled to Paradise to report on the aftermath of the Camp Fire, which had scorched the town three months earlier. He found that drinking water contamination was a central impediment in the recovery process. Benzene and other volatile organic chemicals were found within the town’s water distribution system. The water coming out of the treatment plant, which was largely untouched by the fire, met all drinking water standards. But the water in many homes did not. Post-fire contamination of a drinking water system at this scale was unprecedented in modern U.S. history, and a new reality for officials to contend with. The trip resulted in a 3,000-word feature story (>16,500 views in 2019); a sidebar on how businesses were coping with water contamination; a photo gallery; a Q&A with a Purdue University researcher who was helping assess the contamination; and a podcast interview with the director of the Paradise Irrigation District, which is the town water provider.
  • "In Bid for Cleaner Water, California Seeks Arranged Utility Marriages," Circle of Blue, April 10, 2019.


Christine Woodside for "The View From the Pipes at 205 Bostwick Avenue," an investigation of legal sewage overflows in Connecticut — seen from the vantage point of one cluster of pipes in the state's largest city — and the overflows' effect on human health.

Image of Chris WoodsideChristine Woodside is a writer and editor who writes about the history of ordinary Americans and the environment. She is the environment writer for c-hit.org, the Connecticut Health Investigative Team. "Libertarians on the Prairie," her book about the lives and collaboration of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, is available in hardback and a paperback edition with a Foreword by Stephen Heuser. Her next book will be about New Jersey tenant farmers. Chris is the editor of Appalachia journal, America’s longest-running mountaineering and adventure journal. She lives in Deep River, Connecticut and has been a member of SEJ since the late 1990s.

FEJ-funded project:


Major underwriting for the Winter 2018-2019 coverage project grants was generously provided by Spring Point Partners. Additional support was provided by individual donors to the Fund for Environmental Journalism and to its “Lizzie Grant” for stories on environmental health, in memory of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Grossman.

All Fund for Environmental Journalism grantees retain full authority over editorial and publishing decisions. Through its FEJ program, the Society of Environmental Journalists maintains a firewall between news decisions and sources of grant support. Independent and separate agreements are maintained between SEJ and FEJ grantees and between SEJ and donors whose generous contributions make unique journalism projects possible.

Contribute now to SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism and help journalists tell the most important stories in the world.