THE WATER WAR

"The wars of the next century will be over water," warned the former president of the World Bank in 1999. And within a decade, governments, intelligence agencies and military planners factored in the new reality: by 2030, almost half of humanity will be living in areas of high water stress—there simply won’t be enough

What happens then? Does it become a commodity? A privilege? A weapon?

In this hour-long television documentary set in the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California and in the West Bank, producer/director Michele Mitchell and director of photography/editor Nick Louvel take the audience into what experts and leaders alike call the next great conflict.

“Los Angeles is too big to fail….”

The California water wars began 100 years ago when Los Angeles—via its Department of Water & Power—famously drained the Owens River Valley to create the Los Angeles Aqueduct and turned the Eastern Sierras into “water colonies.”

With climate change altering the snow pack (in fact, it’s the lowest this year that it’s ever been), the proverbial rubber has met the road for LA—and so the DWP is going after any last bits of water rights it hasn’t yet claimed. Chinatown, redux.

It has launched a lawsuit war with the Owens River Valley, suing the working-class ski town of Mammoth Lakes for the rights to its creek (although that creek would supply only enough water to last Los Angeles for one day), and it’s suing just about everybody to stop its work on the Owens Lake.

BUT what happens when rule of law can’t prevail—especially when no one can agree what “rule of law” is and the guns are already out?

“They demolished it and refilled it with the manure of animals….”

In the eastern desert of Bethlehem, there is a series of rainwater cisterns that were build back in the Roman times, which have been used by the Bedouin. Until now. Starting in 2010, the Israeli army has been destroying these cisterns, saying that there is no permit for them. Then again, our interview with the head of this army unit (the head of infrastructure for COGAT) is a little more frank than that….

“Water war” is literal here, with villages like Taybeh (the one all-Christian town remaining in the West Bank) going without water for 15 days at a time while, just over the hill, the settlers who make Psagrot wine have water whenever they need.

Focusing on the issue of cistern destruction, with footage of a demolition (including the detainment of the filmmakers), this part of the film shows just how badly things can go wrong when no agreed-upon law exists, let alone mutually respected borders.

“How many people think about their great-grandchildren? On water issues, we’re going to have to…”

Water has been called the “new” oil—except unlike oil, there is no known substitute.

With an estimated 3 billion people living in water-stressed areas by 2025, is it possible to establish a system, or is it a zero-sum game? The future depends on the answer.

Interviews include: current and former heads of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; Mammoth Lakes Water; the Civil Administration of Israel; the Israeli Defense Forces; current and former U.S., Israeli, French and Polish diplomats; environmental and hydropolitical experts; Oslo Peace Accord water negotiators; NGO workers; settlers; and more. 

Estimated Running Time: 53 minutes

HD/24p