A crisis in liquidity

In case we weren’t worried enough about the world’s water situation, this documentary gives us something right in our own backyard to sweat about.

In case we weren’t worried enough about the world’s water situation, this documentary gives us something right in our own backyard to sweat about.

Liquid Assets does not go into the coming shortage of water worldwide. Instead, it investigates the state of our water infrastructure within the United States.

Unfortunately, this documentary, while very interesting and determined to address a problem that has so far gone unexamined, may not get the audience it deserves due to its multiple weaknesses.

First and foremost is the droning monotone voice of the narrator. If I hadn’t been required to see the film for a review, I would have turned it off. Maybe that’s why it’s being shown in a theater rather than on TLC or some other cable channel. People are less likely to walk out of a film they’ve come all the way out to see.

The narrator does become more animated as the film goes on, but the beginning is a bit hard to get through. After that, there is also the fact that the film focuses on cities on the East Coast, with the exceptions of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The point of the film is to show that our water infrastructure is falling apart because it hasn’t been upgraded or replaced in anywhere from 100–150 years.

One of the problems with the older systems is that the delicate balance required for water purification and reuse can be thrown off of kilter by as little as a 10th of an inch of rain. Since even cities like Las Vegas get about a quarter inch during each rainfall, the results are proving disastrous.

What happens is that raw sewage ends up in oceans and rivers, and is then picked up by other cities for filtration and reuse by their residents. This also means that every time there is any significant rainfall in the Los Angeles Basin, all the beaches in Southern California are closed due to their high levels of human waste.

It would have been nice to see if the problems are the same for younger water systems in places where heavy rains are common, like the Pacific Northwest. Since there is no comparison to infrastructures that work, the film feels a little alarmist. Not to say that the problem isn’t real in the cities represented, it’s just unbalanced.

However, the information given is very good and the graphics are excellent. And it does point out something that most people never think about: All the water that we have or will ever have already exists on this planet.

It’s not like water from outer space accumulates in the stratosphere, and then penetrates our atmosphere, giving us an ever-renewing source of fresh water. If we keep making our current water supply unusable we will be left with no water. We can’t go out and buy new water to replace it, and ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away.

This documentary is definitely worth watching just for the fact that it drills this frightening point home time and time again. Now if the pitch of the narration could only match the urgency of the subject matter, we’d be set.