Correspondents Kathleen Ronayne and Felicia Fonseca relied on emails obtained through open records requests for an exclusive story documenting the competing priorities and tensions that sank negotiations between several western states for voluntary cuts in Colorado River water allotments.

Interviews with water officials cultivated for months -- or in Fonseca's case, years -- were key to supplementing and explaining what the emails showed. A separate public records request by Michael Phillis helped in building a timeline of the negotiations.

The story generated widespread attention on social media and on member sites. Fonseca was invited to appear on a Phoenix radio station to discuss the story.