Water documentaries make a splash

The screening of the documentary "Running Dry" focused on the growing water shortage around the globe as part of this year's theme of "water." The drop of water over a cracked earth is the cover image for the documentary.

Nearly 1,000 students, faculty, staff and members of the Spokane community filled the Martin Centre on Monday and Tuesdaynights to watch the "Running Dry" documentaries. The two films, "Running Dry" and "The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?" focused on the worldwide and local water crises, and were presented by their producer and director, Jim Thebault.

The films were inspired by late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon's book "Tapped Out."

Monday's film, "Running Dry," made in 2005 and presented all over the world, illustrated the global humanitarianwater crisis. It focused on specific water-related issues in each area of the world through interviews with experts and world leaders. The common theme was a shortage of clean drinking water in poor areas.

According to the documentary, about 14,000 people die daily due to a lack of water or disease-ridden water, and poverty goes hand-in-hand with the water crisis. The movie was rife with images of poor villages and children rummaging through garbage.

An astonishing one-fourth of the world's population desperately needs clean water. By 2015, half the population,more than 3 billion people, will have difficult access to clean drinking water, including portions of the U.S. The film stressed the need for cooperationamong countries to avoid this impending disaster.

Africa is one among many areas experiencing severe drought and poor water quality. In North Africa, 40 percentof the population will have a seriousillness because of water quality problems. Many parts of the country experience typhoid, cholera and dysentery because of a lack of clean water. Also, the spread of HIV, which has killed 1.5 million South Africans, is worsened by the water quality.

Although there is often enough water access across the U.S., water is over-consumed and misused. Americansuse an average of 100 gallons of water per day, 15 times more than other people in the world.

"The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?" dealt with the Colorado River watershed.

"The issues of water are ones of which we are all concerned," Dr. Thayne McCulloh, interim academic vice president, said when he introduced the film's director. "It is easy for Americans to get safe drinking water, and many of us never consider the fact that it may one day not be as readily available."

Thebault introduced the film as an educational tool.

"I wanted to alert the world regardingthis water crisis," he said.

It had only been publicly viewed once before. The film's narrator, Jane Seymour, explained that the crisis in the South is the most evident in the country. Extreme weather has led to more droughts and less mountain snowfall. Energy and agriculture are big users of the Colorado River. It is so strained that it rarely reaches the Sea of Cortez. As a result, the ecosystemin that area has been significantly altered, and there has been a 10 to 40 percent water flow reduction. The riveris 2 degrees warmer than in 1976, and the temperature is projected to continue rising.

The film encourages humans to look at water issues from a macro-perspective.A national water policy, the film suggests, could solve many of the drought and increasing population issues.Federal funding is not necessary, but consistent regulations are needed. Recycling water is also important, and removing the salt from ocean water is another option, although it is not energy-efficient.

After both film screenings, Thebautanswered audience members' questions.

"I'm challenging every audience to put elected officials and candidates on the spot," Thebaut said.

He talked about combining knowledge and creativity together to come up with a solution to the water problem.

The "Running Dry" films are part of Gonzaga's theme of water for the year. McCulloh was responsible for bringing the films to Gonzaga.

"I wanted to bring a contemporarydocumentary on water issues to campus in support of the water theme," he said.

Dr. Erik Schmidt, assistant professorof philosophy, is the chair of the Thematic Programming Committee,which was formed by Student Life, faculty and students to develop the theme of water and incorporate it into activities and events throughout the year. Schmidt said the committee wanted a theme "that can be explored from a number of different disciplines" from literature to chemistry. Water, he said, has a "direct relevance to events going on around the world." It applies to legal, humanitarian and world issues.

McCulloh said that water is importantbecause it has no substitute, drinkable water is scarce and water issuesaffect other areas such as energy cost and production.

The second goal for the committeeis for students to think more carefullyabout how they use water and make a conscious effort to conserve it and avoid polluting it.

The Thematic Programming Committee will have two speakers on the issue of water. Jack Nisbet, author of "Invisible Bones," will speak Nov. 4 in the Cataldo Globe Room. His book is about the Columbia watershed. Early in the spring semester, Gary Chamberlain, a Seattle University professor, will speak about his book "Troubled Waters: Religion, Ethics and the Global Water Crisis."

For more information about "Running Dry," visit www.runningdry.org. n

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