Environmental Film Festival Screening: Thirst | Wilson Center

Environmental Film Festival Screening: Thirst

The Environmental Change and Security Project and the DC Environmental Film Festival co-hosted the presentation of Thirst on March 15, 2005, at the Wilson Center. Directed by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman, the film documents community efforts in Bolivia, India, and the United States to confront government plans to privatize water services.

Is access to water a basic right or should it be bought and sold in the marketplace? This compelling character-driven film follows community activists as they protest corporate control of water services. From peaceful petitioning in California to violent riots in Bolivia, the battle over water privatization has raged around the world, as both sides of the debate take strong, emotionally-charged stands on this difficult issue.

In order to trim waste and improve cost-effectiveness, many governments have considered privatizing water sources, but in some cases, public discontent emerged. In Bolivia, riots broke out after the government contracted water services from a consortium that raised certain prices 300 percent and employed plainclothes police to protect water sources. In India, villagers protested companies' attempts to exploit the poor by selling them overpriced bottled water. A community in Stockton, California, fought an uphill battle against the city's plan to privatize water services, dubbing it the "next OPEC" and predicting water prices would rise as high as gasoline prices. Subsequently, the Stockton City Council blocked the community's request for a public vote and approved the privatization of the city's water services.

In the discussion following the screening, an audience member noted, "It is important to examine the water requirements of ecosystems in regards to water privatization, not just human consumption." Another echoed this point: "We need to see all the facts of both sides of the debate before making any policy decisions."

Water privatization is a complex issue involving many stakeholders, but, as one anti-privatization petitioner points out in the film, "Who owns water, gets to control water."

More information about the DC Environmental Film Festival at www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org

Drafted by Zachariah Zanek.