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“WATERSHED: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West” by Amy

This post originally appeared on my blog

I can already picture the look on my girls’ faces when I tell them about the documentary I just saw. Just the word documentary sets them on high alert. So do the words, “I saw someone interviewed” or “I read an article on. .. ..” They know some kind of reform is in store for them. The end of fast food consumption, the house ban on hydrogenated oils, plastic grocery bags and individual bottles of water were all instigated by either a movie, an article or one of the many interview shows on my dvr or itunes downloads. The recent viewing of WATERSHED: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West will be no exception to this trend.

The film is informative and inspiring and the setting in which I saw the film made it even more so. The screening took place at The Water Conservation Garden’s Outdoor Amphitheater on the grounds of Cuyamaca College (east of San Diego), a place I had never been before. It was a beautiful night, the sky was pink, the mountains in east county appeared purple as they reflected the majestic sunset. The Water Conservation Garden is almost five acres of beautiful themed gardens that showcase water conservation. Watching a film filled with gorgeous outdoor photography, talking about the importance of preserving the Colorado River in an outdoor setting was both magical and powerful.

The film was executive produced and narrated by Robert Redford and produced by the Redford Center and directed by Mark Decena at Kontent Films. James Redford, Robert’s son and one of the film’s producers, was on hand to participate in a panel discussion with local San Diego water experts following the screening. The discussion was lively and hopeful and so was the film.

Watershed wasn’t preachy and didn’t leave you feeling overwhelmed and helpless. One Surfrider activist in the audience pointed her finger strongly at James Redford telling him he didn’t come down hard enough on big agriculture. I didn’t need to wait for his response to know that she completely missed the point. Watershed is filled with beautiful cinematography of the magnificent Colorado River, simple graphics that drive home the scientific points of the story that need to be told in laymen’s terms, and most importantly, passionate positive people who are connected to the river, connected to the solution, not the problem. By focusing on forward thinking people, people who are dependent on the river for their livelihood, people who work the land in a progressive way, people who are already implementing the changes necessary to sustain growth and improve the environment, elected officials committed to change, the film leaves you with a feeling that we can do better as a society and more importantly, that as an individual you can make a difference for the better.

Naturally the film has horrifying statistics facts and figures. The one at the core, is that the Colorado River is the most dammed and diverted river in the world, supporting 30 million people and no longer reaches the ocean, a destination that it had traveled to from the beginning of time until we started to populate the western United States in record and unsustainable numbers. But the point is also made that we need only to replenish 2% of the water to the delta in Mexico in order for the river to return to the ocean and to begin to change the decimated landscape. When you see the dramatic result of even less than the 2%, you too will be inspired to be part of the change.

The Redford Center is making the film available for free for public screenings to help spread the word. The film’s website is full of ways to make a difference.

One is to sign a petition to encourage the US and Mexico to reach an agreement to restore a small amount of water yo the Colorado River Delta. The others focus on knowing your own water footprint and conservation tips. The biggest impact we can have as individuals is in our outdoor water use and of course flushing and showering! You can use the National Geographic water footprint quiz to take stock of how much water you use. The panel members suggested contacting your local water provider and getting a usage evaluation and learning about incentive programs to conserve water and save money.

So while I look into changing more of our sprinklers to a drip system and rerouting our washing machine and dishwasher water to outdoor use, my girl’s are off the hook – for now. We already turn off the water while brushing, only flush when we need to, give stella our left over water from water bottles that we fill at home and travel to national parks, raising awareness and respect for the splendor of the natural world. 2% improvement, I think we can do that, maybe even more.

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