Program Description






“The American Southwest:  Are We Running Dry?” a documentary film completed July, 2008, hosted and narrated by actress Jane Seymour, and produced, directed and written by veteran filmmaker Jim Thebaut, who also serves as executive producer, provides audiences in-depth awareness about the water crisis in the western United States.  Viewers will learn about land use planning and water needs of cities in the Southwest and how relentless drought and record low precipitation has affected water levels on vital sources such as Lake Powell, Lake Mead, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta system, the Rio Grande and the Colorado River.

Interviews with key policymakers and members of Congress about the looming crisis between states, and discussion with water authorities and scientists make for absorbing and contemplative discussion about conservation, water reuse, consequences of urban growth, and water policy in this nonpolitical film. Discourse about vanishing groundwater reserves, potential states fighting over water resources in the near future, how water was historically divided, and nuanced interviews are part of the compelling film documentary.

Discussion includes solutions to the water crisis such as desalination, rainwater harvesting, green construction, individual choices to conserve, and how communities may share in the effort to dilute the water crisis. The film ultimately serves as a “teachable moment” and a wake up call that the water crisis deserves urgent attention -- but that all is not lost – that individual responsibility can lead to collective power that can turn the tide. 

Passionate narratives from vulnerable Native Americans about hauling water by truck miles from their homes and fear that water may not be safe and available now and in the future flesh out a topic that is little understood among other Americans. Lena Fowler, Vice Chair, Navajo Water Rights Commission, laments that “every morning at dawn we pray.  Then the second thought is -- do we have enough water?  Should we haul water today?  And how long will this water last?”

All audiences, domestic and global, will confront their own regional water delivery challenges and associate new environmental patterns that may be related to climate change.

The film points out that because of projected population, urban growth, and agricultural needs, the Colorado River may out-strip the amount of water supply that will be available within these regions which could lead to chaotic conditions in the not-too-distant future. These conflicts include city versus city, city versus farm, upstream versus downstream.

Viewers will learn how desert communities and high growth cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, the Albuquerque area, and Palm Springs are working to surmount water scarcity.

The film demonstrates that many of the rivers in the American Southwest are at the lowest level ever recorded. But it is the “Colorado that is the primary water source for about 30 million people,” says Gene Whitney, Office of Science & Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President.  “The bottom line is there is only so much water in the Colorado River.”

Tim Brick, Chairman, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, explains the relationship between water and energy.  “A lot of people don’t realize how much energy is being used.  When people are saving water, they are saving energy as well, particularly important when we start to get serious about reducing global greenhouse gases.”

Jane Seymour, the host and narrator of “The American Southwest:  Are We Running Dry?” who was filmed on location at Shiprock, New Mexico -- considered a sacred site to the Navajos -- is passionate about the water crisis in the United States and the world.  She also narrated Jim Thebaut’s “Running Dry” 2005 documentary about the global water crisis.  “As in the rest of the world, significant water problems exist in the Southwest states because of severe drought, urban development, agricultural uses and population growth,” says Seymour.  The overwhelming need to solve these issues in the United States and the world is crucial through education and planning. The severity of the American water crisis cannot be underestimated,” says Seymour.

“Land use planners have not done what they should have done,” states Ken Salazar, Senator from Colorado in the documentary.  “The only time people understand the importance of water is when they don’t have it.  The fact is that without water there is no quality of life.” 

Las Vegas’ water strategy stresses reuse and conservation that pays its water customers one dollar per square foot to replace grass with drought tolerant landscaping.  “We’re a community that is 100% recycled,” says Pat Mulroy, General Manager, Las Vegas Valley Water District
and Southern Nevada Water Authority in the documentary.  “The water crisis represents a total rethinking of how we live and how we operate. That is our difficult task,” she says.

Senator Pete Domenici, New Mexico, and Ranking Member, Energy & Natural Resources Committee states in the film that “The water crisis will lend itself to a big fight sooner that people thought because there isn’t going to be enough Colorado water. The Southwest is the fastest growing and one of the most vital parts of America.   They are going to use the water till Hell burns over.” 

U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts, Chair, Select Committee, Energy Independence & Global Warming stresses the United States must have national land, water, and air policies to reflect the danger to the United States and to the planet and states that “because of climate change, because of extreme weather, there are growing crises in water in the Southwestern part of the United States.  There’s a real question as to whether or not Lake Mead will be viable in another 20 years, whether or not Hoover Dam will be able to generate electricity,” says Markey.


Jim Thebaut is the executive producer, writer and director of two documentaries about water:  “Running Dry” (2005) and now, “The American Southwest:  Are We Running Dry?” (2008).  The anticipated American Southwest project follows on the heels of the acclaimed 2005 documentary, “Running Dry” about the global water crisis that shed light on the fact that every 15 seconds a child dies from the lack of water or water related disease.  Since its release, the documentary “Running Dry” has been seen by millions of people worldwide. Two major screenings of that film about the global water crisis were held at the Russell Senate Building and Cannon House Building in Washington, DC for congressional members and staff that helped in the passage of landmark legislation, The Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act in late 2005.

Thebaut developed his documentaries based on Senator Simon’s book, Tapped Out:  The Coming World Crisis in Water and What We Can Do About It  (1998) considered by many a harbinger of things to come and excerpted in Parade Magazine. Thebaut’s water documentaries were developed in association with former United States Senator Paul Simon until Simon's untimely death in 2003.

The former senator from Illinois delivered a clarion call to citizens and political leaders to act to save the world's diminishing water supply.  "Within a few years," Simon wrote, "a water crisis of catastrophic proportions will explode on us." Simon, a newspaperman before he became a politician, made use of compelling statistics to outline the looming crisis. Simon wrote about vanishing groundwater reserves in California, polluted drinking water in India and the potential for geopolitical violence in the Middle East and urged governments to step up their support for desalination, conservation and pollution control. He also called for policy changes such as charging consumers for the actual cost of conveying water. The book served as a wake-up call for decision makers and the public to act in order to save vanishing groundwater reserves.

In fact, Simon’s book along with the “Running Dry” documentary influenced passage of the landmark Sen. Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, signed into law in late 2005 that establishes access to safe water and sanitation as a major US foreign policy objective.

“Former United States Senator Paul Simon’s book inspired me to get the word out about the water crisis,” says Jim Thebaut.  “I created this film to be a wake up call to a mass audience.  The ultimate goal is to encourage as many individuals they can make a difference.

“The American Southwest:  Are We Running Dry?” will be released and broadcast  Fall, 2008 on public television throughout the United States.  The film will be screened at special select events on Capital Hill as well as for communities, academic environments and individuals, and in “town hall” settings – particularly for those interested in the topic of water.  Communities are encouraged to screen the film in group settings, hold roundtable discussions and town meetings to address the communal water crisis. 


Still Photos - Image Gallery

“The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry” - Trailer

Film Credits & Special Thanks

Interviews (in alphabetical order)


Jim Thebaut Water Strategy For USA

Jim Thebaut - Biography

Jane Seymour - Biography

Michael Horse - Biography

Running Dry - Artwork

About The Chronicles Group


the american southwest: are we running dry?