What a movie! I am into environmental documentaries, and though they may sound kind of dry and possibly boring to some people, everyone on this planet needs to see this amazing film, which is anything but boring. It is all about something we take for granted and that we cannot live without – water. Last Call at the Oasis is from the the people who brought us An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc. and Waiting For “Superman” and is a sobering account of how we are fast approaching a time when water will be a commodity more valuable than gold.
The film travels around the globe chronicling the dire state of our access to and supply of water. It starts in Las Vegas with its Water Commissioner telling us that in 5 years they will be out of water. Lake Mead cannot keep up with demand and there is nothing that can be done. They are seriously considering a billion-dollar pipeline to steal the water from a smaller town across the state possibly turning it into a desert – too bad for the people who live there! Moving on to the Central Valley of California, where 25% of America’s food is grown, farmers are outraged that there is now a shortage of water for their crops, partially a result of saving an endangered fish upstream, but that particular little fish is key to a fisheries ecosystem that employs a whole different set of stakeholders. What we have considered to be an inexhaustible supply is simply not! Climate change has made it so that snow pack is not to be counted on any longer to replenish watersheds. And we are using water frivolously all over the place.
The film moves on to what is in the water we are drinking. We consume unregulated bottled water thinking it is safer than the regulated water from our taps. But we are also drinking a soup of excreted pharmaceuticals and have no way of knowing what a number industries are adding to our water that cannot be filtered out. Cue Erin Brockovich who arrives to talk about the poisons that are still showing up in wells all around the country. She keeps telling us that the EPA is broke and that we can’t wait for them to fix it. One scene where she goes back to the community made famous in the Erin Brockovich film is starkly tragic. Despite the publicity of that blockbuster, these people are still living with horribly toxic water and waiting for help. I can’t go into all the angles the movie hits on the water issue, but it is exhaustive and really sobering.
But don’t be scared away from seeing this excellent documentary. Last Call At The Oasis is beautifully shot, has a great soundtrack, and the main interviewees are extremely engaging, sometimes even funny. Besides Erin Brockovich, there are a handful of scientists who take you through some serious science in a very understandable way. But at the end of the day, they offer no solutions. Our aquifers can’t keep up with demand. Conservation won’t save Southern California. And desalination is very expensive with an enormous carbon footprint. I think this film is really a call for some great innovators and visionaries to get to work. So put down your water bottle. Turn off your sprinklers. And go see this movie!