Skip to content Skip to navigation

Prophetic Report on Houston’s Flood Vulnerability Wins 2017 Knight-Risser Prize

Oct 12 2017

Posted In:

Screen shot from “Hell and High Water” by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune

Screen shot from “Hell and High Water” by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune

“Hell and High Water,” an innovative collaboration between ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, has won the 2017 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism. The deeply reported, interactive project revealed Houston’s severe vulnerability to hurricanes and flooding – and the government’s unwillingness to address the increasingly dire warnings of scientists. It also showed how Houston’s unchecked hyper-development created short term economic gains while dramatically increasing the flood risks.

Hell and High Water
The Texas Tribune and ProPublica  

The series, which combined excellent science journalism, on-the-ground reporting, and cutting edge mapping and storm simulation technology, was published more than a year before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.

The prize goes to Neena Satija, investigative reporter and radio producer for The Texas Tribune and Reveal; Kiah Collier, Energy and Environment Reporter for the Texas Tribune; Ryan Murphy, Senior Designer/Developer for The Texas Tribune, and ProPublica’s News Application Developers Al Shawand Jeff Larson.


The judges awarded Special Recognition to two other impressive entries this year:

“Toxic Armories,” an 18-month investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive reporter Rob Davis, uncovering the story of lead contamination at hundreds of National Guard armories around the United States, from Oregon to Maine. Armories in seven states shut their doors to clean the known hazards and National Guard leaders pledged federal money to pay for the cleanups.

“The Toxic Air Latinos Breathe,” by Jose Corbella and Clemente Álvarez of Univision Noticias, a four-chapter special on the poor air quality found in Hispanic neighborhoods in the U.S. The series described in vivid detail what it is like to live in one of the most polluted areas of the country.

About the Prize and the Judging

The Knight-Risser Prize recognizes the best environmental reporting on the North American West. It is administered by the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships and The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The winner receives a $5,000 award and participates in the Knight-Risser Prize Symposium, an annual environmental forum at Stanford.

The next symposium, to honor the 2017 winner, is being held in Paul Brest Hall at Stanford on Wed., November 15.

The Knight-Risser Prize judges this year were John Daley, Health Reporter, Colorado Public Radio; Beth Daley, Director of Strategic Development, InsideClimate News; Dawn Garcia, Director, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University; Lawrence Goulder, Shuzo Nishihara Professor in Environmental and Resource Economics at Stanford University and the Director of Stanford Center for Environmental and Energy Policy Analysis, and Paul Rogers, Natural Resources and Environmental Writer, Bay Area News Group.

Read more at the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism »


Recent Center News

Sep 14 2018 | Out West student blog
“With the general election approaching,” writes the Center’s summer research fellow Benek Robertson, “I hoped to highlight specific policy areas that could influence the general election and California politics for years to come.”
Sep 13 2018 | Center News
Beyond her accomplishments at Water in the West and Stanford, Newsha Ajami has also shown an intense dedication to developing and mentoring the generation of scientists, engineers, and policymakers following in her footsteps.
Sep 12 2018 | Out West student blog
“I’ve come to recognize the value of rephotography as tool to analyze environmental change through time,” writes San Francisco Esturary Institute intern Nick Mascarello.