Documentaries Focus on Water Infrastructure, Resources

America’s aging drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems are in dire need of an overhaul.

Oct 1st, 2008
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James Laughlin, Editor
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America’s aging drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems are in dire need of an overhaul. While that’s common knowledge in the municipal water industry, the problem is “out of sight and out of mind” for most of the public at large.

Penn State Public Broadcasting (WPSU-TV) hopes to change all that with its new 90-minute documentary on the looming crisis underneath our feet and how communities are trying to meet this challenge.

“Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure,” tells of America’s distressed essential infrastructure systems: drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater. These complex and aging systems -- some in the ground for more than 150 years -- are critical components for basic sanitation, health, public safety, economic development, and a host of other necessities of life.

A four-minute trailer is available for viewing online at http://liquidassets.psu.edu. The documentary began airing in select cities in October and is available nationwide to all public broadcasting stations.

“The goal of this public service media project is to stimulate community discussion and bring this issue into the public consciousness using television as a catalyst,” said executive producer of the documentary, Tom Keiter. “We want ‘Liquid Assets’ to be more than just a broadcast.”

The documentary explores major water, sewage, and stormwater infrastructure issues facing communities across the country, including: Atlanta, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Hermini, PA, (pop: 856).

Simply considering the complexity of constructing a system serving a city the size of Philadelphia or Atlanta is daunting, but the task of restoring a broken system is even more so. With the help of 3-D imaging and dynamic animation, the documentary visually exposes America’s underground and explores the technical complexity of our national infrastructure.

Most of those interviewed agree that hundreds of billions of dollars will be required to restore America’s infrastructure. The documentary illustrates how cities and regions are confronting infrastructure rehabilitation, both economically and politically.

Accompanying the documentary is an online companion toolkit intended to help facilitate discussions that extend beyond the broadcast. The community toolkit includes an outreach guide and other resources to complement the documentary.

In an odd twist of timing, another major public television broadcast of a documentary focused on water resource issues in the desert southwest is also set to begin airing nationwide in October.

“The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?” is hosted and narrated by the actress Jane Seymour. The film discusses the water crisis in the western United States, including Southern California. Viewers will learn about land use planning and water needs of cities in the Southwest and how drought and record low rainfall have affected water levels from vital sources -- such as Lake Powell, Lake Mead, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta system, the Rio Grande and the Colorado River.

Interviews with key policymakers and members of Congress, water authorities and scientists about the looming crisis make for an interesting discussion about conservation, water reuse, consequences of urban growth, and water policy. Talk about vanishing groundwater, states fighting over water resources in the near future, how water was historically divided, and nuanced interviews are part of the film documentary.

More information on the documentary is available at www.runningdry.org.

James Laughlin, Editor

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