Documentary Takes a Critical Look at California Water

The National Geographic Channel will air a documentary March 14 on California water and the role of private interests in water management.

The film, “Water and Power: A California Heist,” traces decades of policy decisions, including 1994 negotiations to amend State Water Project contracts, and contends that a small number of private landowners have reaped profits from a public resource. Other themes include the expansion of permanent crops such as almonds, increased groundwater pumping and severe drought that left some communities without safe drinking water. 

In ACWA's view, the film badly mischaracterizes the 1994 negotiations and draws many inaccurate conclusions and connections between unrelated issues and events.

ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn is among those interviewed in the film. Quinn participated in the Monterey amendments negotiated in 1994 as a representative of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. He sought to provide historical context about the negotiations in the film and noted that SWP contractors viewed them as a key step in the transition away from dependence on the state project to local and regional water managment. Much of Quinn's perspective was not included in the film.

“Water and Power: A California Heist” was screened Tuesday night in Sacramento at the Crocker Art Museum. The screening was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Rita Schmidt Sudman, former executive director of the Water Education Foundation. In addition to the film’s director, Marina Zenovich, the panel included Quinn and others interviewed for the documentary.

Prior to the Sacramento screening, the film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in late January.

More on the film is available here.