Film Premiere: Running Dry
On February 24, the Environmental Change and Security Project hosted the film premiere of Running Dry . Directed by James Thebaut, the film highlights the human and environmental consequences of lack of clean water. The documentary was inspired by the book Tapped Out, written by the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon. At the premiere, Thebaut was joined by Jeremy Pelczer, President and CEO of American Water; actress Jane Seymour, the film's narrator; and Senator Simon's widow, Patricia Simon.
More than just a documentary, Running Dry is the "centerpiece for a massive public education information program," Thebaut announced. Jeremy Pelzcer, whose company American Water underwrote the film, suggested that this project exemplified the power of public-private partnerships. According to Pelzcer, it is "unforgivable to be in a position of business leadership" and not help solve the global water crisis. Patricia Simon praised Running Dry for following the lead of her late husband, who "didn't talk about problems without giving us some idea of solutions." Narrator Jane Seymour, described by Thebaut as the voice of "Mother Earth," contrasted her own bout of water-borne disease with the millions who suffer without treatment, and reiterated her commitment to promoting the ideas espoused in such a "fabulous film."
Water is a fundamental element of survival, yet also a leading cause of death: 13,000 people die daily from water-related diseases. In the developing world, 80 percent of the cases of infectious disease are connected to water. The lack of clean water is also a geopolitical concern: in the film, Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union and current head of Green Cross International, attests that terrorists recruit adherents by promising a life free from such diseases. Water scarcity and stress are therefore security issues, since "people will do everything for water."
Running Dry also highlights how water crises impact specific regions. In China, 400 major cities face water shortages, and 70 percent of cities have no sewage treatment plants. The lack of adequate clean water amplifies poverty and constrains sustainable development within the country. In South Africa, inadequate hygienic education compounds the problem. In the Middle East, security concerns prevent the development of infrastructure that would improve sanitation.
Demographic factors are also closely linked to water crises. Droughts and water degradation spur migration into urban centers such as Bangalore, India. Population growth increases the demand on existing water sources, which is compounded by localized water pollution and the inability of existing infrastructure to effectively accommodate more users.
Overall, Running Dry does not portray the global water situation as an insurmountable catastrophe. Rather, it attempts to educate the public, NGOs, and policymakers in order to better confront the crisis. The film claims that a "coordinated, global, environmentally sensitive humanitarian effort" could solve most water problems. However, success depends upon public sector leadership, active community involvement, political will, and effective education efforts. Peter Gleick, co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, notes that it is essential to cooperate, not fight, over water issues. Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres concludes the film with a resolute expression of belief that "water is a solvable problem" and that it is our responsibility to work towards a solution.