Blue Gold – Water Wars

Fresh water is our most precious resource. The opening minutes of Blue Gold: World Water Wars make this case strongly and succinctly, with narrator Malcolm McDowell describing the symptoms of extreme thirst over footage of a parched landscape. The question isn’t whether we need water — that much is obvious. It’s whether we’re handling our resources properly. And according to this documentary, the answer is a resounding no.

Like most documentaries these days (and particularly those screened as part of local activist group the Arusha Centre’s Action Film series), Blue Gold is less an exploration than a polemic. In 90 minutes, it outlines the basic science behind the current threats to the world’s fresh water, discusses the political and economic situations that make progress difficult and shows some of the more viscerally horrifying consequences of “water wars” — disputes between the companies and governments that own water and the citizens who simply want to survive. According to the film’s array of activists and experts with nary a contrarian in the bunch, these wars are sometimes quite literal, with impoverished citizens taking up arms in order to establish a right to water.

The presentation is brisk, informative and occasionally dramatic. Literal life-and-death struggles are handled with the gravity they deserve, although recurring scenes of a little girl explaining the science of the hydrologic cycle sometimes give the impression that director Sam Bozzo doesn’t entirely trust his audience. The most refreshing thing about Blue Gold, though, is its optimism. Though it depicts a dire situation — one scientist claims that we only have enough drinkable water to last us 50 years — the film is actually more positive than many global disaster documentaries. The film’s last segment features positive developments, success stories and a claim that the Earth is far more resilient than we might think. For once, it feels like this is a problem we can actually do something about, even if it does take a great deal of effort.

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