Water-related films like "China Town" and "Step Into Liquid" are popular for their entertainment value, but they also can provide awareness and an oblique appreciation for water.

However, as local and global water shortages start to show their strain on society and the environment, there has been a surge of videos and films that explore and address these water issues in a more direct fashion. These films range from short, well-done postings on "YouTube" to full-length professional productions. They are usually designed to educate and deliver the full impact of an issue related to the world's or a given region's water situation, often containing astounding footage and facts.

Below is a variety of recommended water films, with a type of film for just about everyone. See if you can find one that fits your pleasure.

Cadillac Desert' 1996
Starting with my personal favorite is the film "Cadillac Desert: Water and the Transformation of Nature." This film is a four-part documentary about water, money and politics in western America, with a segment focusing on how Los Angeles grew. Most of the film is based on Marc Reisner's seminal book "Cadillac Desert," which is a great read. The film is available for purchase online, but several intriguing clips can be seen atwww.videosurf.com/cadillac-desert-71015. This documentary combines the best of entertainment and education.


Chinatown is a Hollywood classic that portrays the darker side of how Los Angeles obtained water from Owens Valley. Roman Polanski directed and actors Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway star. If you have trouble untangling all the dealings in this film, watch the first series of Cadillac Desert for full enlightenment.

Poisoned Waters' 2009
This PBS documentary looks at how many of America's waterways are in jeopardy from pollution and contains excellent interviews with some of the nation's environmental experts. View free atwww.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poisonedwaters.

Blue Gold: Water Wars' 2009
"Blue Gold" was recently shown by the Santa Cruz nonprofit Coastal Watershed Council. It focuses on privatization and control of the world's water. Human struggles for water are displayed, including a scene where a person takes his own life to demonstrate the importance of water. This movie does not make for a light evening, but it is educational. Available at www.bluegold-worldwaterwars.com.

Step Into Liquid' 2003
This dynamic and rhythmic surfing film was called "spiritual" by The New York Times. It is not only a great surfing documentary, but a film where a genuine appreciation of water is forefront. Visit www.stepintoliquid.com.

California Water' 2006""2008
Comprising 24 episodes, this series is like taking a road trip through the water veins of California. The series took four years to complete. Production was sponsored by the Association of California Water Agencies. The series contains basically everything you could want to know about water issues in California. It is available for purchase and will soon be posted for free viewing at www.calgold.com/water.

State of Thirst: California's Water Future' 2008
This well-done KQED video visually summarizes how pressures on water supplies are increasing. View atwww.kqed.org/quest/television/state-of-thirst-californias-water-future.

Waterworld' 1995
Yes, this is a full-on Hollywood extravaganza. What makes it unique is the futuristic setting in a world flooded with water and all the land submerged. It's a provocative view of too much of a good thing.

Flow' 2008
This award-winning documentary focuses on the privatization of water and the world water crisis, but also interviews people that are implementing solutions. Available for purchase at www.flowthefilm.com.

California Colloquium on Water' ongoing
For those of you who can not get enough about water, this lecture series is for you. The Colloquium water website contains about 75 video lectures from scholars of distinction discussing various aspects of water and related issues. This is one of my favorite water-related film websites and is found atwww.lib.berkeley.edu/WRCA/ccow.html.

River and Tides' 2002
This documentary, recommended by my artistic wife, shows the ephemeral work of the talented Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy. Many scenes illustrate the tension between time and water, leaving one awestruck. It is available for purchase online and has made appearances at the Nickelodeon Theatre in Santa Cruz.
Whether you are seeking pure entertainment value or are looking for a more educational documentary regarding water, any of the above films get two thumbs up.

Ron Duncan writes a biweekly column for the Sentinel. He is a manager for the Soquel Creek Water District, which offers free visits to homes and businesses and suggests ways to save water. Contact him atrond@soquelcreekwater.org or call the District at 475-8500.