In Deep

By American Public Media

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In Deep is a podcast about water, climate and environment from The Water Main at American Public Media. In Season 1, we tackled the strangely fascinating yet troubling world of clean water -- from tap to toilet. Season 2 shines a light on environmental equity with a rich journalistic portrait of a working-class city and its residents at a perilous moment in our planet's existence.

Episode Date
Somewhere to Sleep

In a span of nine months, Lake Charles, Louisiana, endured two hurricanes, an ice storm, and a flood. Each one was declared a federal disaster. The government promised help, but as time wore on, this working-class city was still a sea of blue tarps and debris. Thousands of people were left scrambling to find somewhere to live. 

People like Alexis Sheridan and her fiancé JJ Jones, who lost their rental home in back-to-back hurricanes. They bounced around between living in their damaged house, hotel rooms, and a tent. And with a baby on the way, the couple was desperate to find a permanent home.

In this episode we spend time with Alexis and JJ as they wait for someone to step in and rebuild their city after a year of climate chaos.

More: Transcript of this episode

Sep 27, 2022
Trailer: Season 2

In one year, Lake Charles, Louisiana, endured two hurricanes, an ice storm and a flood. The federal government promised help. Lake Charles is still waiting. And rebuilding on its own. In Deep, Season 2, begins September 27.

Learn more:

Sep 20, 2022
Make Me Care

After months of research, In Deep reporters and editors have become fascinated with water infrastructure. But can they convince a Gen Zer to care? In this episode, Todd Melby, Annie Baxter and Dan Ackerman go head to head to persuade Erianna Jiles that she should care about water infrastructure. Who will succeed? We also answer listener questions on lead service lines and bidets!

Photo: Erianna Jiles

Sep 30, 2020
Brown Flood, Green Flood

Giant engineering projects didn’t solve all of Chicago’s water woes. Intense rainfalls are dumping more water on the city, resulting in more flooding. This despite about $4 billion in spending on one of the most expensive public works projects in the nation’s history. So what can Chicago do? Some point to green infrastructure — plants, trees, rooftop gardens — as one of the best ways forward. And we go to Philadelphia to see how that city is really embracing green.

Photo: Todd Melby

Sep 23, 2020
Well, Well, Well

In the 1990s, lakes and wetlands dried up in Florida’s fast-growing Tampa Bay region. Some attributed the drastic change to drought; others to overpumping of an underground aquifer. A pitched legal battle, known as the Water Wars, played out. Some government-run utilities wanted to keep pumping from the aquifer; others wanted to look for new water sources. Eventually, they began to work together to find multiple sources of drinking water.


  • Randy and Mark Barthle, Barthle Brothers Ranch owners

  • Honey Rand, Water Wars author

  • Eileen Hart, Tampa Bay resident and water rights activist

  • Ken Herd, Tampa Bay Water, chief science and technical officer

  • Radhika Fox, US Water Alliance, chief executive officer

Photo: Courtesy of Tampa Bay Water

Sep 16, 2020
Small Town, Big Struggles

Today we leave the big cities behind and ask: How does rural America manage its water infrastructure? After all, one in five U.S. households isn’t connected to a sewer system. We visit the rolling mountains of Letcher County, Kentucky. There, in the early 1900s, coal mining firms built company towns with little attention to long-term infrastructure. Decades later, local residents are dealing with the consequences. We hear from former coal miner Carroll Smith about his push in the 1990s to bring clean drinking water and safe wastewater disposal to communities across the county. And we learn where he ran into challenges.


  • Upmanu Lall, Director of the Columbia Water Center at Columbia University

  • Carroll Smith, former Judge Executive of Letcher County, Kentucky

  • Allan Tuggle, retired miner

  • Edna McBee, Millstone resident

  • Mark Lewis, General Manager, Letcher County Water and Sewer District

Photo: Britta Greene

Sep 02, 2020
Poison Pipes

Clean water can get contaminated on its way to your faucet. In America, more than 9 million lead service lines connect city water to individual homes (and apartments), leaving millions of people vulnerable to potentially harmful doses of lead. Retired EPA scientist — and Flint whistleblower — Miguel Del Toral shows us lead pipes unearthed from his property in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood and explains why they're no longer considered safe. And we talk to a Milwaukee father, who stumbled upon this lesson with his young son.

Read APM Reports’ investigation
Read Del Toral’s memorandum on Flint


  • Miguel Del Toral, EPA scientist (retired)

  • Rick Rabin, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health

  • Tory Lowe, Milwaukee activist (and father of four)

  • Karen Baehler, scholar-in-residence at American University School of Public Affairs

Photo: Lauren Rosenthal | APM Reports

Aug 26, 2020
Godzilla's Bathtub

Older American cities have a dirty problem — outdated sewer systems that use a single pipe to carry both sewage and stormwater to treatment facilities. As population growth and climate change have increased both sewage and stormwater, those pipes can get filled to capacity, and the untreated water sometimes ends up in waterways, where it wreaks havoc on the ecosystem. Chicago’s strategy for stopping the overflows has been to build massive reservoirs and a 109-mile-long system of tunnels hundreds of feet below ground. It’s a gargantuan holding tank for filthy water. Unfortunately, it may not be big enough.

Aug 19, 2020
Microbial Goo

Just how hard is it to keep wastewater out of our drinking water? Super hard. In this episode, we take a look at the lengths one great American city, Chicago, went to in order to keep the source of its drinking water clean. Reverse the flow of the river? Why not? Then we explore the origins of activated sludge — a century-old microbial goo that still cleans up our sewage today. We end with a scientist studying what a city’s wastewater can reveal about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Aug 12, 2020
Dirty Water

Throughout human history, cities have grappled with how to keep excrement separate from drinking water. In the Middle Ages, gong farmers excavated human waste from city dwellers and took it to the countryside to be used as fertilizer. In the 19th century, cities grew so big, this wasn’t possible anymore. So excrement went into rivers like the Thames, which is where London, a city of 2 million people in 1850, got its drinking water. At the same time, cholera was killing tens of thousands of people. Nearly everyone thought cholera was transmitted through the air. But John Snow, a London physician, discovered dirty water was the cause.

Aug 05, 2020
Trailer: Season 1

From history to policy to full-on drama, In Deep dives headfirst into the troubling state of the mysterious networks that keep our water clean and coming out of the tap. We explore when “out of sight, out of mind” could get us in deep doo-doo, because the ugly truth is that these complex systems are just as imperfect as the people who created them. In Deep will plumb the depths of the complex mysteries behind the clean water in our lives. It’s an engrossing tale that mirrors the very development of our present-day human civilizations — and is shockingly just as fallible.

Jul 28, 2020