‘Where There Once Was Water’: How the driest places are finding innovative ways to conserve

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In “Where There Once Was Water,” Darlene Arviso works with DigDeep to deliver water to residents in remote areas of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. Photo courtesy of Brittany App.

Through her new documentary, “Where There Once Was Water,” Brittany App introduces innovative ways to conserve water, restore ecosystems, and reconsider our relationship with the natural world. The film follows her venturing through California and the Southwest in search of people practicing wise water management. 

“How can we help those who don't have the means to still have access to clean drinking water? Because clean drinking water is — and if it's not, it should be — a human right. Not every human being needs to water their golf course, right? But we all need to be able to drink clean water. So I think we are entering a time where we will be forced to really think about this and probably restructure the way that we're doing things.”


Wildfires in California have increased in frequency and intensity due to changing and much drier conditions on the land. Smoke from the Thomas Fire in Ventura County is seen here, over the mountains of San Luis Obispo County in 2017. Film still courtesy of Brittany App.


Spencer Smith, at the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management in remote Northeastern California, practices holistic planned grazing with his cattle, an agricultural practice that heals the water cycle and grows living soil while also growing food. Film still courtesy of Brittany App.

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