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Once Was Water

Las Vegas provides an example to the world of how any city can and must create its own sustainable water solutions.

A printer-friendly version of this page 55 minutes
Directed by Christopher Beaver
Produced by Diana Fuller
Executive Producers: Regina Scully, Nion McEvoy, Owsley Brown, Patrice & Lisa Gautier
Original Music: Jacob Bloomfield-Misrach
Editors: Christopher Beaver, Maureen Gosling
Camera: Christopher Beaver
Sound Design & Mix: Jim McKee
A Trash 24 Production

"Absolutely fantastic...shows how the lessons learned by Las Vegas...offer hope for solving the looming global water crisis." Edward Barbier, Sr. Scholar Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State Univ
[Note: Community screenings of ONCE WAS WATER can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]

Las Vegas, in the middle of the Mojave Desert, is the driest city in America, yet it leads the United States in sustainable water conservation. The efforts of Las Vegas, in its search for sustainability, have produced promising solutions--technological, political, and financial--providing an on-going global model for any city creating their own sustainable water system.

Everything to do with Las Vegas's water supply and disposal is watched, measured and checked. 40% of the water is recycled for indoor use. Every drop is monitored acoustically to detect possible leaks within 6,500 miles of pipes. The film follows the story of Patricia Mulroy, the controversial founder of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, whose leadership is shaping Colorado River politics, providing a path to safety in the face of intensifying water scarcity.

In addition to a complex and visionary system of recycling wastewater, Southern Nevada's conservation efforts have generated a keen public awareness, and spawned hands-on programs in the public schools to teach about food-growing and water use in the desert.

Christopher Beaver & Diana Fuller also made Racing To Zero, another solutions-oriented film, about San Francisco's efforts to reach zero waste.

Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2019     Copyright Date: 2019
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-21-6

"Once Was Water is a fascinating look at what it takes to make a city bloom and thrive in the desert. It's a great kickoff to a community or classroom discussion about fresh water - how we use, manage and value it, and how to ensure we have enough for the future."
Sandra Postel, Director, Global Water Policy Project, Author, Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity

"Absolutely fantastic...A compelling and inspiring film that shows how the lessons learned by Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada Water Authority offer hope for solving the looming global water crisis. Once Was Water both educates and enlightens, demonstrating how cities, communities and water authorities can band together to avert growing water scarcity. A must for anyone who wants to know where the water in our taps comes from, and how to use it more sustainably."
Edward Barbier, Professor of Economics, Senior Scholar of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State University, Author, The Water Paradox: Overcoming the Global Crisis in Water Management

"A fascinating exploration of one city's historic campaign to conserve water. This inspiring story of how Las Vegas made peace with nature is a twenty-first century guide to sustainability. Once Was Water is a must-see for anyone interested in water, the environment, and improving their community."
David Soll, Associate Professor, Watershed Institute, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, Author, Empire of Water: An Environmental and Political History of the New York Water Supply

"One of the pivotal issues of our time...Water is the central character in Las Vegas' past, present, and future. It also plays a starring role in the city and the region's economy, culture, and politics. While this may be true in many places, what is different in this geography is the tremendous innovation and creativity taking place to do more with less, the collective sense of urgency that time is running out, and the determination of many to make a difference. We can find a better path forward with water at its heart."
Nicole Silk, President and CEO, River Network

"With Las Vegas as the prism, Once Was Water is an educational documentary, not preachy but unmistakably clear that water is our most precious resource and we must do a better job in using and protecting it. Most viewers will be surprised because, behind the mirage of the Bellagio Fountain, is the reality of cutting-edge water conservation and reuse programs."
Robert Glennon, Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of Arizona, Author, Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It

"As a plant biologist and sometimes frustrated drylands gardener, I was impressed with the film's ability to show how water conservation permeates the culture of Las Vegas from casinos to schools. Primary school teachers will appreciate seeing how water efficient school gardens empower student learning, while college educators will appreciate how the film conveys the interconnected nature of sustainable operations."
Jacqueline Grant, Assistant Professor of Biology, Director, Garth and Jerri Frehner Museum of Natural History, Southern Utah University

"Educators looking to introduce high school or early undergraduate students to sustainable water management in the face of changing climate will find Once Was Water useful: The 'walk and talk' approach invites viewers into the process of uncovering challenges and solutions, while highlighting a useful ethnographic approach for all researchers."
Christy Spackman, Arizona State University, Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies

"Highly Recommended...Having lived in Las Vegas for seven

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DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
DVD includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and scene selection.

Climate Change/Global Warming
Environmental Ethics
Global Issues
Green Building
Local Economies
Natural Resources
Public Administration
Social Psychology
Urban Studies
Urban and Regional Planning

Related Titles

Racing To Zero
Follows San Francisco's innovative efforts towards achieving zero waste, thereby dramatically reducing the city's carbon footprint.

Edens Lost and Found - Los Angeles
Is it possible that the City of the Angels can be a model for the world of environmental rebirth?

Looks at the failure of our current sewage disposal system and presents alternatives.

Contrasts sci-fi ideas about terraforming Mars with the state of NYC's waterways, and questions the viability of colonizing Mars before making our own planet sustainable.

Water On The Table
An intimate portrait of international water activist Maude Barlow and the debate over whether water is a commercial good or a human right.

Chasing Water
Breathtaking photography tells the story of the Colorado River, which flowed to the sea for 6 million years and now dries up 90 miles short of the Sea of Cortez.

A piercing look at the global corporate drive to control and profit from our water -- from bottles to tap.

An unflinching examination of the big business of bottled water.

The Matrix of Life
Suzuki travels the world exploring our intimate relationship with water and air.

... more Reviews

years, I can personally attest to the city's amazing use and recycling of water...An excellent movie for classes on modern-day cities and conservation efforts."
Brad Eden, Educational Media Reviews Online

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