Health Science & Environment | KUER 90.1

Health Science & Environment

Central Arizona has been booming -- more people, more houses, more need for water. There's also a long-term drought, and less water to buy from the Central Arizona Project canal system . It's leading Phoenix exurbs to cast about, looking for new buckets.

Other regions of the state say: don't come here.

For five years, Zay Lopez tended vegetables, hayfields and cornfields, chickens, and a small flock of sheep here on the western edge of Colorado's Grand Valley - farming made possible by water from the Colorado River.

Lopez has a passion for agriculture, and for a while, he carved out a niche with his business, The Produce Peddler, trucking veggies seven hours away to a farmers market in Pinedale, Wyoming.

Lopez also moonlights as a Realtor, with his finger on the pulse of the local real estate market. A few years ago, he noticed a strange new phenomenon. Much of the irrigated agricultural land sold in the valley - such as parcels just down the road from his farm - wasn't being bought by another farmer. Instead, his new neighbor was Water Asset Management, a New York City-based hedge fund with deep pockets.

Photo of Monument Valley in Utah.
Erik Neumann / KUER

The Navajo Nation is one of the hardest hit areas in the country by COVID-19. The reasons for that are complicated and bound up in years of history. One person trying to make sense of it is Farina King, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and a professor at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma.

Heat map
Logan Mitchell / University of Utah

Utah’s Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee met Monday to discuss improvements to the Wasatch Front’s air quality during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Photo of a man walking toward the edge of the mesa
Guerric / Creative Commons

The Bureau Of Land Management has proposed leasing 114,000 acres of public land in Utah to energy developers, including land adjacent to some of Utah’s most iconic national parks. 

Graphic illustration of phone screens
Renee Bright / KUER

As protests against racial injustice grip Utah, KUER invited you to share your experiences with racism in the state. Here are some of your stories about those moments. 

Photo of two forklifts in a large warehouse full of cardboard boxes.
Sonja Hutson / KUER

During a recent shipping day, Utah’s personal protective equipment warehouse in Salt Lake City was bustling with activity. Forklifts whizzed around, carrying boxes full of gowns, facemasks, and hand sanitizer, and loading them onto trucks headed for hospitals and local health districts. 

Illustration of people waiting in line wearing medical masks and two medical workers standing nearby
gmast3r via iStock

For months, the Utah Department of Health has released daily statistics on COVID-19. To find out which numbers are most important to understand the outbreak, KUER’s Caroline Ballard spoke with Dr. Andrew Pavia, who has worked in pandemic preparedness and serves on a number of COVID-19 task forces for Utah’s hospitals.

Photo of a man standing next to a truck holding a hose
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

The Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act passed the U.S. Senate on June 4, bringing thousands of Navajo families one step closer to getting running water in their homes. 

Photo of the lake
ventdusud via iStock

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a draft environmental impact statement for the Lake Powell Pipeline Monday, another step toward an official decision on the project that would move water from Lake Powell to Washington County. 

Photo of workers in a meat packing facility.
industryview /

Over the last week and a half, Utah has seen what the state health department called a “concerning spike in coronavirus cases.” While officials there attributed much of the increase to the state’s economy reopening, roughly a third of the new cases are also tied to an outbreak at a meat packing facility in Cache Valley.

Photo of the lodge
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

The Navajo Nation has taken drastic steps to fight COVID-19, which has already taken more than 250 tribal members’ lives. Hotels on the Navajo Nation are only allowed to house essential workers, and the Nation’s president, Jonathan Nez, has also asked tourists to stay away.

Photo of the sheep
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

MONUMENT VALLEY, UTAH — Nearly 100 vehicles lined the road next to Monument Valley High School Monday morning. One by one they entered the school parking lot, where missionaries from the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hoisted live sheep into the bed of each truck. 

Weekend protests drew crowds across the country including in the Mountain West, from hundreds in Boise and Reno to thousands in Denver. Some city leaders now worry such gatherings could lead to new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Sunday that the city will be offering free tests to demonstrators. 

A wildfire burns up the left side of a distant ridge.
Tooele Fire Warden Twitter

Utah’s fire agencies are currently reporting two wildfires burning in the state. 

The Ninth Street Fire in the hills east of Ogden is burning 35 acres. The blaze has damaged a Rocky Mountain Power substation, downed several power lines and threatened 72 homes. It was 15% contained as of 1 p.m. on Sunday.

A line of people on a sidewalk hold signs that say "She was my sister" and "Have you seen us? Pueblo Nations"
Courtesy of Meskee Yatsayte

In a first of its kind call Friday, a task force set up by President Donald Trump that focuses on missing and murdered indigenous women hosted a forum to discuss how the crisis is affecting Native Americans in the Southwest. 

Photo of a crowded sidewalk
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

MOAB — As Arches and Canyonlands national parks prepare to reopen this weekend, Gov. Gary Herbert has rejected a request from Grand County officials to limit overnight lodging. 

A cardboard sign points towards a COVID-19 testing site outside of a hospital.
David Fuchs / KUER

ST. GEORGE — Southwest Utah has reached a new high-point of active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, local health officials announced Thursday.

Photo of Utah State Board of Education Building
Courtesy of Utah State Board of Education

Members of Utah’s Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee met Wednesday to discuss up to $380 million in possible cuts to the state’s education funding. The hearing is part of a larger effort from Utah lawmakers to balance the state’s budget, which is projected to lose up to $1.3 billion in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A helicopter flies over red and white canyons
Washington County Sheriff Search and Rescue Facebook page

ST. GEORGE — In the eight years Sgt. Darrell Cashin has worked search and rescue, Sunday was the busiest day he’s ever had on the job.

Photo of a man testing samples in a lab
Courtesy of Danielle Zebelean

Since the end of March, Utah researchers have been testing wastewater in an attempt to track the spread of the coronavirus in the state. It’s an experimental program whose first phase ended Friday. Now the data will be turned over to the state’s Department of Health for analysis.

Photo of a fire burning the golden grasses at the base of a hillside and covering the feature in smoke
Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands

ST. GEORGE — The past week was a blur for firefighter Mike Melton.

An aerial image shows two large ponds of uranium tailings with Sleeping Ute Mountain in the background.
Tim Peterson/LightHawk

When the White Mesa Mill was built in 1980, it was permitted to process domestic uranium ore for 15 years.

Photo of a street in Kaysville
City of Kaysville website

Utah Business Revival, a group of small business owners that want to fully reopen Utah’s economy, plans to host a concert later this month in Kaysville. It’s the same group that held a protest in Salt Lake City last month, opposing stay-at-home orders.

Photo of a TRAX train.
Brian Albers / KUER

Public transportation ridership in Utah has plummeted since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

Photo of a red and black playstation controller
Ross Terrell / KUER

Video games have been a welcome distraction for many people while social distancing, but for a few they can create problems, too. A new study from Brigham Young University looked at video game addiction over the course of six years. 

Photo of bar stools on top of tables
Kelsie Moore / RadioWest Films

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has shattered small businesses around the country. 

A new survey finds differences in how Americans feel about water, and how those feelings translate into action.

The Water Main, a project from American Public Media, wanted to know how Americans think, feel and worry about their water. Among their findings is that knowledge of water issues isn't the biggest predictor of whether someone takes the effort to act. Personal connections to particular rivers, lakes and oceans led to more concrete conservation measures.

Photo illustration of an outdoor concert
TopVectors via iStock

Most of Utah has moved to the yellow, low-risk level of the state’s coronavirus recovery plan, and some people are beginning to think about large scale events. 

Two nurses wearing protective gowns talk to people in cars in a parking lot.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

BLANDING — While COVID-19 is ravaging the Navajo Nation in San Juan County, there have been fewer than 10 confirmed cases in Blanding, where less than 200 people have been tested for the disease.