Blue Gold: World Water Wars, 2009
Directed by Sam Bozzo
The film, Blue Gold: World Water Wars, addresses a very pressing topic: our use of water.
It is only from liquid water that all known life exists. Search for life? Search for water. As is evident through ancient civilisations, such as the Egyptians and the Mayans, when the water dries up, so does the civilisation. No water. No people.
Water is the source of life. Yet, only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water. With much of that now being polluted, where does that leave us?
Once the water is polluted it continues within the water cycle leading to health problems. There are currently more deaths cause by polluted water than wars.
With 60% of wetlands gone, ground water pumping causing sinkholes and threatening the stability of surrounding areas, deforestation leading to soil erosion and desertification, and excess urbanisation and urban populations water demands exceeding the local water supplies, how are we to recover? As a species, as a planet? We have ‘adapted’ water to us, rather than the other way around.
The privatisation and commodification of water, has turned water from a right into a good and has led to a new type of colonisation. Largely as a result of the introduction of water on the stock market at the beginning of the century, a water cartel of transnational companies has formed with no centre of power.
There are not enough laws in place to protect the resource, corporations are given the same rights as citizens. And, as contracts with governments are not reliable enough for these transnational companies, they see a future that lies in desalination. Not, however, to clean up the water supply, but in order that they should better be able to control and profit from it.
The water many of these companies sell is much the same as tap water, just with a much higher price tag. They attempt to exert their authoritarian position by threatening citizen activists with legal action, if only to make people then have to pay for speaking out and hoping to deter others from doing the same.
Around the globe, groundwater continues to be pumped at an alarming rate and bottled water is shipped far away from its source. This all serves to disrupt the eco-system and leads to desertification. Countries export their own water supply. Water from one area gets taken and moved around the world through food.
In particular, China and Australia are two largely exporting countries, Australia being the driest continent on earth. Sydney, Mexico City, Beijing and Melbourne are some of the driest cities in the world.
The world political-economic system and the influence of The World Bank make farmers and people desperate, causing “water wars.” In some areas governments have the power, and have been known to shut off the water supply to certain areas, leaving people without water for days. Chemical seeds are promoted for farming because they require less watering, but they in fact require more intensive irrigation.
In India, in particular, disputes over water are often passed off as ‘religious conflicts’ rather than a right of access to fresh water. Frequently, corporations exert their power to acquire local resources. Military might is often imposed, such as in Paraguay, known as the “middle east of water,” where a US military base has been set up near the world’s largest dam. This goes further than capitalism, it’s about power. And greed.
Aqueducts redirect water, putting farmers out of business, and many areas like south California do not want a water limit, and have lived and used water unrestrainedly. But, can we continue like this? Is there a way to live more in-line with the supply available?
The system needs to change. In the film, a number of options working towards a solution are posed, including: limiting population size and living within the local water supply, such as has been done by the city of Bolinas, California; creating local food systems using local water, soil and appropriate crops; the Blue Alternative – a method of capturing the water system near the coast and making small water catchments, or “little dams;” people power, linking those in need, in order to fight for the future – as demonstrated in Uruguay with the establishment of a law in their constitution so that water cannot be privatised.
As stated in the film, a new water culture is needed. We must entertain the idea that our water management influences climate change not vice versa. This is an idea that motivated the Blue Alternative.
And fighting against the system that has re-introduced the class structure, is essential. Commodification only steals, it does not create. It is not a solution.
Here are a few powerful quotes about water from the film to leave you with:
“Water is more precious than gold.”
Water has become a commodity, where “the price never goes down.”
“You can’t make peace with thirsty people.”
Over the next 10 to 15 years the situation surrounding water will likely change dramatically. What are we going to do about it?
The most important thing is to just start asking questions. Because water is a right. And you have a right to know.
Unlike many documentaries, this one actually comes with an ‘action plan,’ with one underlying motive: that knowledge is power. There is hope, there are things you can do.
Find the film on Amazon.
Important links and resources:
To start, be sure to visit the film’s website and check out “The Action Plan” page where you can learn how to find out the name of your watershed, where your water comes from and goes to, and possibly who owns your water (now that’s a disturbing concept).
To find your local watershed:
If you’re in the USA you can also get involved through Adopt Your Watershed.
Check out this map. “Launch the Maps”, then click the “Projected Change” tab to see the effect water shortage may have.
Learn more and teach your children about the importance of water with these interactive activities.
Let’s ask questions. Get informed. Act. And make a difference!
(If you find other useful resources you think should be listed here, please let us know.)
Watch the Blue Gold: World Water Wars Trailer