Many Western films reference the importance of water within their story-lines – characters live and die by its availability. A recent documentary film looks at the importance of water in the West in a contemporary context.

Watershed is a 2012 documentary, narrated by Robert Redford, examining the increasing threats to the Colorado River and the contentious issue of water use in the American West. Produced by Redford’s son, Jamie, the film shares the perspectives of a number of individuals – including Indigenous views – as to what new water ethic must be followed in order to sustain both the people that rely on the river and the Colorado itself. The almost 1500 mile-long Colorado River is the most dammed and diverted river in the world.

Robert Redford – respected for both his commitment to the arts and the environment – states in the film the crisis that the Colorado River faces:  “With population in the region expected to reach 50 million by 2050, temperatures rising and precipitation patterns becoming more erratic, demand will outpace supply unless we embrace a new water ethic.

Redford has stated that what is happening to the Colorado River is an example of what is taking place with water across the planet. Here is the trailer for Watershed (2012):

The Colorado River travels thru seven U.S. states and two Mexican states yet due to the demands placed upon it for drinking water, energy generation, agriculture and sanitation it runs dry prior to reaching its natural end at the Gulf of California. The film argues that unless a new approach to water use is taken, the growing demand on the Colorado River coupled with increased climate change will see the river retreat further. This would have disastrous consequences for the millions of people who depend – knowingly or unknowingly – upon the river for their lives.

Further information about Watershed can be found at:

Dates and locations for screenings of the film are available at this link:

(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)

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