Written On Water is a somewhat bleak look at the global depletion of ground water through the eyes of generational farmers on the Ogallala Aquifer of the high plains of Texas. The Ogallala Aquifer runs from Nebraska to the southern reaches of West Texas. While the subject is bleak, the landscape of the film is desolately breath-taking. Vivid blue skies over lush green, dusty brown, running rivers, dry riverbeds and abandoned fields give the film a beautiful backdrop to a terrifying situation. Millions of year in the making, the aquifer is now in decline, primarily in its southern reaches.
The Ogallala Aquifer
This decline is the result of several factors, most of which are addressed in this important film of the present and of the future before us. The story is told through the words, lives, experiences, hopes and dreams of the farmers of the high plains of Texas. Most of these farmers are the descendants of the original landowners, some families going back six generations. At that time, the settlers turned prairie into lush farm land using primitive pumping technology. The technology improved and with it came a steady depletion of the underground gold. Water which was once more than plentiful has now become known as “Sandstone Champagne”.
The present story of the aquifer is a complicated one of property rights, conservation, waste, laws, restrictions, beliefs, tradition and resilience. The Ogallala Aquifer level has taken a sudden plunge in the last few years. By pumping six times the rate of replenishment, the aquifer has declined 60 to 70 percent in just the last two years. The water could literally disappear tomorrow. This is a tragic tale playing out not just in Texas, but in aquifers around the world. With water truly being our life-blood, the film speaks to a dire need to formulate a solution.
The depleted reserves of the Ogallala Aquifer, of course, affect agriculture, but it truly has a trickle down effect. With less water, and fewer crops, the local economies take a severe hit. Ancillary businesses such as grain silos, feed stores, tractor dealers, grocery stores, and entire towns simply fold up and disappear. But the present day farmers are hardy. They practice conservation, plant dry crops, attempt to produce crops needing the least amount of water possible all with the constant application of new regulations and limitations.
Subsurface rights go with the land when purchased, so the frustration at an uncontrollable plight is evident in the voices of the film’s cast. But it really does not matter that you own land from “heaven to hell” if man and nature are not working to strike a balance. The Ogallala Aquifer, once known as the “Mother Lode” aquifer, is in severe trouble. This film amplifies the importance of water management not only in Texas, but in aquifers around the globe.
For a sobering look at what is taking place now and what we must conquer in the future with regard to the liquid universally vital to life, do not miss seeing this film!