Threats to the once-mighty Colorado River may seem insurmountable, causing a potentially catastrophic scenario for the millions who depend on it, but there is still hope. In the new film Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for a New West, Executive Producer Robert Redford and Producer James Redford offer solutions for the future of the American West.
The Colorado River cuts through seven U.S. and two Mexican states; it is the lifeline to expanding populations and booming urban centers that demand water for drinking, sanitation and energy generation. A large majority of the river’s water is used for agriculture, and the river runs dry before it reaches the Gulf of California. Unless we do something soon, the river will continue to retreat.
In the movie we spend time with several individuals who rely on water from the Colorado: a fly fishing guide in the Rockies, a restoration worker, a Navajo Council member, the Mayor of Rifle Colorado, a native of Los Angeles, and a group of Outward Bound teens rafting the Colorado. Viewers have the opportunity to see how each of the individuals conserves water in places from Los Angeles to organic farms in Colorado and hear how their daily lives are shaped by water. This is done from a human interest point of view and it never feels preachy or too extreme; it keeps your interest because you want to learn more about the people in the film. Watershed does an excellent job of capturing the magic of water, and showing how vital water is to life.
Saturday was the film’s Southwest U.S Premier; the sold out event packed The Water Conservation Garden amphitheater at Cuyamaca College. Watershed is one of the best films I have seen about water and definitely hits its goal of making water interesting to consumers.
The Best Advice of the Evening
After the movie Peggy Pico, Host of KPBS Evening Edition, moderated a discussion with panelists Jamie Redford, Watershed Producer; Francisco Zamora Arroyo, Director of the Colorado Delta Legacy Program, Sonoran Institute; James Smyth, General Manager, Sweetwater Authority; Jill Witkowski, Waterkeeper, San Diego Coastkeeper; Robert MacClean, President, Cal American Water. The panelist made brief statements and the amphitheater was opened for questions. One of the responses from the audience came from a representative from the Surf Rider Foundation who addressed the audience with a long explanation of the need for conservation and criticized the film for not being tougher on Agriculture. Redford responded by explaining the film was intended as Water Conservation 101, and he and his team had thought long and hard about how to present the information. They concluded the message had to be presented in a way that did not come across as extreme so viewers wouldn’t feel alienated. It was the best way to get more people interested in and involved with water conservation. I thought this was extremely good advice and something all of us need to remember as we push our water conservation efforts forward.
There is opportunity for you to hold a screening of the movie yourself, if you like. You can find details about that here. This is not only a must-see water management winner, but a great human interest story too. So if you get a chance to see the movie, I wouldn’t miss it. You don’t have to be a water conservationist to enjoy it.