By Sarah Bergen
The Eco-Reps have once again exposed students to a looming environmental issue. The effects of the water shortage in the American West filled the screen in Sweigart Auditorium from March 11-12, as students witnessed the horrors play out in the 2012 documentary Watershed.
The film focuses on the water crisis surrounding the Colorado River and introduces viewers to western city dwellers, farmers and even Navajo people whose lives are being turned upside down by the lack of water.
This shortage is caused by excessive use of water from Colorado. While water is a renewable resource, it is being consumed faster than it can be restored, creating some major dilemmas.
According to the film, it all started in the 1960s when dams began to spring up along the Colorado River. The film called the river the most “dammed, dibbed and diverted river in the world.” This alteration of this beautiful source of water is wreaking havoc across several states and Mexico.
The river that used to flow from Colorado to the Gulf of California has begun to dry up and no longer reaches the gulf near Mexico. The film demonstrates how this change has turned parts of Mexico from lush landscapes bursting with life to dry deserts with few creatures.
According to Watershed, 70% of the Colorado River is used for agriculture. This leaves little water for people. Colorado rancher Dan James described how the West is being ruined because industrial farms, which did not exist before, are utilizing the river. This process is taking away from the natural environment.
On a larger scale, the film declares that the United States uses 60 billion gallons of water every day simply flushing toilets. Watershed featured massive, lush lawns, littered with bursting sprinklers, and the beautiful, flowing Colorado and all of its inhabitants.
The film also connects the water shortage in the West to another pressing environmental issue: fracking, the process of drilling for natural gas that requires millions of gallons of water and chemicals. Watershed states that 50 billion gallons of water are used each year to extract fossil fuels. Not only is this process wasting drastic amounts of water, but can also contaminate that water, which then seeps into the ground and infiltrates natural water sources around the world.
Rather than simply drowning its viewers in shocking facts and doom-and-gloom statistics, Watershed offers many inspiring solutions to the water crisis. Instead of using water or natural gas as sources of energy, the documentary suggests better utilization of solar power.
Keith Lambert, mayor of Rifle, Colo., has moved his town in the direction of progress by promoting the use of solar energy in homes and businesses in his community. Solar panels cover the roofs of countless buildings in Rifle.
James suggests taking “the industrial out of food production” and moving toward large-scale organic farming in order to eliminate pesticides and fertilizers that contaminate our food and water.
Even though Watershed seemed to only focus on the western United States, the film seemed to hit home for Rider students. The lengthy discussion that followed the film was laced with controversy and passion.
Students realized that this water shortage in the West clearly affects those in the East as well. Sky-rocketing prices of dairy and meat across America are just a few aspects of society that are taking a hit from the lack of water.
After all, water is an essential factor in all forms of life. It is the source of all plants and animals — and every little thing that fills our stomachs. As water becomes scarce in the West, farmers pay more for the grain that feeds their animals, and customers pay more for foods from animals, including meat, dairy and eggs.
The film showed Rider students the essential nature of water and how absolutely necessary it is for life to thrive.
“Water should be a natural right — it sustains us,” said sophomore music education major and Westminster Eco-Rep Jasmine Riel. “It’s something we are competing for, and it’s something we have to fight for because people are abusing it.”
According to the movie, only a 2% increase in the Colorado River’s flow is needed to restore the connection to the Gulf of California. Two is not a terrifying number to tackle. Watershed showed that small changes to how we use water can make a huge difference.
Printed in the 3/26/14 edition.