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Troubled Waters

gardnerborderfencecropped221x1461 “Do you have…protection?” The U.S. Border Patrol officer patted his holster as he asked. “No, do I need to? I replied. He suggested to his supervisor perhaps one of them should escort me. This section of the U.S.-Mexico border has been one of the most dangerous.

That’s a 16-foot border fence behind me in the photo. The escort idea was nixed due to lack of manpower, so I bid the officers adieu and struck out for the main channel of the Colorado River, lugging tripod and video camera across 1/3-mile of delta. In places I sank so deep in the silt that it poured into my boots.

As expected there was not a drop of water in the river. It had all been diverted to Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and the Imperial Valley. Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography recently calculated a 50 percent chance lakes Mead and Powell will dry up by 2021, and a 10 percent chance the lakes will run out of usable water by 2013. Yet growth addicts in our metropolitan areas are busy plotting to make sure they get every drop of water they have a legal right to, water that is unlikely to be there.

Fresh water to sustain human life is not a challenge unique to our desert Southwest. Last year Atlanta was on the brink of running out of water. 36 states in the U.S. are projected to face serious water crises within five years. The U.N. estimates by 2025 two-thirds of the world’s population will face severe water shortages. “Peak water” has joined “peak oil” and “peak food” in our modern vocabulary. A stable or declining population is never considered as a possible solution to these looming crises. Growth must go on, insist our high priests of the church of growth everlasting.

My expedition last week to the lower reaches of the Colorado River was part of a 7-day shoot in Arizona and California. I covered 2,000 miles documenting California’s mammoth water projects (California uses 23 trillion gallons of fresh water annually), world-famous freeway congestion, offshore drilling and unhealthy smog for our documentary, Hooked on Growth.

Why seven days? I spent most of it sitting on congested L.A. freeways!

We’re whittling away at the list of must-have interviews and shoot locations to finish the film. Remaining: Las Vegas, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Vermont.

I’ll do these soon if we can raise the funds. Please consider this project in your year-end giving.

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