National Geographic : 1993 Nov
On Television America's Fresh Water: Plumbed to the Depths As the Columbia River slides past islands in the deep pur ple quiet of dusk, it is nearly impossible to believe that you are looking at one of the most endan gered rivers in the United States. Fresh water: We drink it, bathe in it, grow our crops with it, generate electricity with it. We have dammed it, diverted it, drained it-and in forcing it to do our bidding, we have abused it. "The Power of Water" reveals how urgently fresh water affects lives and livelihoods-from the Columbia River to Florida's Ever glades, from the Great Lakes to the Ogallala aquifer. The film, part of the Society's Fresh Water Initiative, leads the 1993-94 TV Specials. "My interest," says producer Susan Winslow, "has always been in portraying character." To this end she sought out people whose daily lives are intertwined with water. She found Patricia Mulroy, the general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District. Mulroy argues for more water for urban users along the Colorado River, a major source of surface water for 20 million people in seven south western states. In the early 1930s Hoover Dam sounded the starting gun to an era of dam building in this land of little rain. No river system is more dammed than the Columbia/Snake system, with 30 major blockages on the main stem. "Cash register" dams produce cheap electricity but have nearly destroyed a once thriving salmon fishery. Fourth-generation gillnetter Kent Martin and his wife, Irene, realize that their way of life is dying with the salmon. Kansas farmer Rodger Funk sees upheaval, if not in his lifetime then in his son's, as the fossil water of the Ogallala aquifer is depleted. Around the Great Lakes, PETERESSICK industrial waste has poisoned river sediments, and the folly of pollution has spurred activism. Margaret D. Heaney's elementary students in Buffalo, New York, call themselves the "Buffalo River Rats," as they work to save that waterway. Decades of drainage and chan nelization have disrupted natural processes in the Everglades. In Florida's "river of grass" 90 percent of the nesting wading birds have vanished, though work has begun in reallocating water in the wetlands to mimic nature's ebb and flow. "There is a saying in the West," Winslow recalls: "Water flows toward money." Now it flows away from the old masters-ranchers and farmers-toward the new: cities, recreational users, and environ mentalists. Whatever their use of a precious resource, Winslow has found "people who can remind us not to take water for granted." "The Power of Water," Special on PBS, November 10, 8p.m. ET. NATIONALGEOGRAPHICEXPLORERAIRS ON TBS SUPERSTATION,SUNDAYSAT 9 P.M. ET. NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSPECIALSAIR ON PBS; CHECKLOCALLISTINGS. FOR INFORMATIONON NATIONALGEOGRAPHICVIDEOS, CALL1-800-343-6610, MONDAYTHROUGHFRIDAY,8 A.M . TO 5 P.M. ET, IN THE U. S. AND CANADAONLY.
1993 Nov 30