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Join the Sustainability Institute and the Penn State Water Council for the third film of the 2022-23 Intersections film program.

The Colorado River is the lifeline of the American Southwest. Large parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California plus parts of Mexico depend on its water for their very survival and economies. But the compact that divided the water among the states is over a century old and was written in an abnormally wet period, allocating more water annually than actually flows through the river today. Moreover, population growth is exploding in this region, climate change is drastically reducing the snowpack that feeds the river, and the American Southwest is in its third straight decade of drought, with climate change forecast to produce mega-drought lasting decades more. In other words, we’re sitting on a long-term ecological time bomb that could threaten millions of people’s existence.

But people are working to address this situation and build a more resilient ethos that works with the natural environment rather than trying to impose our fantasies upon it. Pete McBride’s Chasing Water offers a deeply personal journey for McBride, who grew up in Colorado, as he traverses the whole length of the Colorado River and sees how the river no longer reaches the sea in Mexico because of the demands being placed on it. Cody Sheehy’s Beyond the Mirage goes state-by-state, groundwater vs. surface water, sector-by-sector to review the threats to the Colorado River Basin and all who live there but also highlights the leaders working to collaborate on new strategies to deal with our overconsumption of water. This is an issue that is timely, urgent, and affects the future of the country–in other words, it’s a conversation you don’t want to miss.

After the film, we were joined by faculty from Penn State’s Water Council and Penn State Extension, as well as community leaders, to consider issues of water security and the Colorado River.