PBS Film to Look at Looming Desert SW Water Crisis

Nearly every state in the American Southwest is affected by a water crisis and is struggling with record dry conditions. On the heels of the American Southwest's drought, and in an effort to raise awareness, The Chronicles Group with support from grants from the American States Water Company, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and other public and private entities, Vegas PBS will present The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry? directed, written, and produced by Jim Thebaut, president of The Chronicles Group, a Los Angeles based non-profit public information/education film production company.

Featuring narration from Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Seymour, The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry? is a definitive look at how the water crisis affects the American Southwest states and its escalating economic toll. With no commercial interruption, the film will premiere on western PBS stations in fall 2008 and air in key cities across the American West, followed by live in-studio simulcast town hall meetings.

From the White House to the House of Representatives, Thebaut interviews key thought leaders for an intelligent and informed discussion about the evolving water crisis. Thebaut films at diverse locations including the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations, on Capitol Hill and in Las Vegas for an absorbing and contemplative discussion about conservation, water reuse, desalination, unprecedented population growth and future water policies. Interviews with key members of Congress include Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Ken Salazar (Colo.), and Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), and U.S. Reps. Mary Bono (Palm Springs) and Jim Costa (Fresno). An interview with Dr. Gene Whitney, science advisor to President Bush, also is featured in this impartial and balanced documentary.

The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry? gives audiences an in-depth awareness and education of the water crisis in the United States. Viewers will learn about land use planning and the water needs of cities in the Southwest, and how climate change may impact water levels on vital sources such as Lake Powell, Hoover Dam's Lake Mead, the Sacramento River Delta, the Rio Grande River and the Colorado River.

Pat Mulroy, who as general manager oversees operations of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, which serves more than 300,000 customers, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, responsible for acquiring, treating and delivering water to local agencies that collectively serve 1.8 million residents and nearly 40 million annual visitors, says, "While the challenges posed by acute water shortages are becoming increasingly apparent throughout our nation and the world, we in the American Southwest have for some years now witnessed the impact of climate change as we work to stretch a limited resource to meet the needs of a growing population. With this film, Mr. Thebaut will aptly portray how we in the desert southwest are working to surmount the obstacles. Hopefully, other regions around the world can build on our experiences to confront their own water-scarcity crises."

Timothy Brick, chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, says, "Metropolitan is proud to be part of this important project. The challenges we face in meeting water needs of the Southwest are great and education is the first step. This film will play a vital role in communicating the seriousness of the challenge in showing people there are solutions and we are addressing those solutions for the future. Jim Thebaut has awakened and activated a large audience about the scale of the global water problem. We are convinced that this film focusing on the Southwest will be equally significant."

Vegas PBS General Manager Tom Axtell says, "Our station is dedicated to making scientific concepts and public policy accessible to all citizens. This project is another example of our commitment to work with community organizations to discuss these issues. We are delighted to be involved in a multi-state, multi-station project that explores the critical issue of water in the Southwest."

The project follows on the heels of Thebaut's groundbreaking and critically acclaimed 2005 documentary, Running Dry, about the global water humanitarian crisis that featured interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev, Shimon Peres and others. The documentary shed light on the fact that every 15 seconds, a child dies from the lack of water or water related diseases and that the seeds of terrorism evolve from the global humanitarian crisis.

"My last project was looked upon as a reliable source of information in the ongoing battle to educate people about the crisis. The American Southwest documentary represents a profound opportunity to educate the public and even change some minds without politicization. It's an honor to collaborate between these public and private sectors," says Thebaut.

Inspiration for Running Dry originated from the late Illinois Sen. Paul Simon's book, Tapped Out: The Coming World Crisis in Water and What We Can Do About It, published in 1998. Considered by many a harbinger of things to come, the book was excerpted in Parade Magazine and served as a wake-up call for decision makers and the public to act in order to save vanishing groundwater reserves. Simon's book-as well as the Running Dry documentary-influenced the passage of the Sen. Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, signed into law in late 2005.

Says Simon's wife, Patty, "When Paul retired from the Senate, he wrote about the coming world crisis in water. He knew his book would reach a limited audience in book form and wanted to reach a larger population by film. Jim Thebaut made it possible for Paul's concerns to be noted by many. Running Dry takes you to places Paul had seen and more. The impact is a chilling reminder of just how precious water is and how much safe water and sanitation is threatened or non-existent in today's world. This next film will be a vivid call to action to make water a priority issue."

Jane Seymour, who will appear on-camera as well as narrate, says, "As in the rest of the world, significant water problems exist in the Southwest states because of severe drought, urban development, agricultural uses and population growth. The overwhelming need to solve these issues in the United States and the world is crucial through education and planning. The severity of the American water crisis cannot be underestimated."

Also interviewed for the American Southwest documentary is Floyd Wicks, president and CEO of American States Water Co., which provides water service to hundreds of thousands of Californians. "The recent stroke of a pen that reduced the amount of water through the state water project, coupled with the fact that Southern California just experienced the driest year ever recorded since 1887, and the reduction already experienced on the Colorado River all add up to the need for a comprehensive solution and analysis of the water supply sustainability in the American Southwest. With all these situations facing us it calls for immediate action to find new sources of supply. With everyone working together it can be done," says Wicks.

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