'Last Call at the Oasis' Experts: World Water Crisis 101

Is bottled water really safe? Is cloud seeding for real? Is desalination the solution?

lake in drought
Coming to a lake near you—dry sand. (Photo: Jean-Pierre Pieuchot / Getty)
Sal holds a Political Science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

The facts don’t lie—but they do shame and scare.

While the world’s poorest live on less than two and a half gallons of water per day, the average American consumes 99 gallons of water per day. What’s worse, it is estimated to cost $1 trillion to upgrade America’s water infrastructure over the next 25 years.

These jaw-dropping water truths, and others like it, set the backdrop for a new documentary, Last Call at the Oasis

Knitting together a narrative that touches on everything from the siphoning havoc Las Vegas has levied upon Lake Mead to the filthy holy water of the Middle East’s Jordan River, from deadly petro-chemical runoff in Texas to the notion that the solution to our water woes might lie in reclaimed wastewater (yes, that means recycled pee), the film premieres today in Los Angeles and New York before expanding to other cities throughout May.

In the months since the documentary first screened for audiences at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, TakePart has sat down and discussed almost every angle of the crisis with the film’s many experts and activists.

Here are the highlights—so grab your pad and pencil, nothing more than the future of our world’s most prized natural resource depends on it.

Do Americans Really Believe There’s a Water Crisis?

“I think that as long as we can turn on the tap and water comes out, it will be very hard to convince people that there’s anything to be alarmed about…we don’t care unless it’s happening here. The thing is, it is happening here and that’s something I think will be very jarring for viewers. It certainly was for me.”

Jessica Yu, Director, Last Call at the Oasis

Tap Water Is Okay to Drink, Right?

“I think most municipal waters are safe to drink. I really do. We need to be careful about over chlorination... But I think generally the municipal systems are pretty good. When a municipality has a problem, you don’t just get one person reporting, you have thousands of them reporting, and the water companies tend to move very quickly.”

Erin Brockovich, Environmental Activist

And Bottled Water? Is It Really All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

“Often, bottled water comes from tap water. Forty-five percent or so of the bottled water we get in the United States originates as tap water.”

Peter Gleick, President, Pacific Institute

Is Cloud Seeding For Real? Can We Really Make Rain?

“Cloud seeding research has been around for decades, and the little rain that it generates has no tangible impact on water supply. I’m not surprised to hear of China’s recent discussion of weather modification. However, there is no credible evidence that it works.”

James Famiglietti, Director, University of California’s Center for Hydrologic Modeling

What About Desalination? Is This a Viable Solution?

“It is incredible technology, particularly reverse osmosis using membranes. I mean it’s smart, there’s no question about that. The issue is that it should be the solution of last resort, not first resort. We first and foremost need to make sure that we manage the water resources that we have, be it here in the Middle East or anywhere in the world in as a sufficient, sustainable manner as possible.”

Gidon Bromberg, Director, Israeli Office of Friends of Earth Middle East

What is one thing you or your family are doing to conserve water? Discuss in the comments.

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