‘Watering the West’ brings water awareness to FoCo community

A+sign+outside+The+Lyric+advertises+its+weekly+open+mic+nights+June+14%2C+2021.

Collegian | Michael Marquardt

A sign outside The Lyric advertises its weekly open mic nights, June 14, 2021.

Noah Pasley, News Editor

What draws many to Colorado is the abundance of snowcapped mountains for skiers and hikers, but for the other part of the year — and increasingly more often — Colorado is a dry and even arid place with very little rain or precipitation. But yet, as many would attest, the water still flows, especially in Fort Collins, where the Cache la Poudre River serves as a source of pride for many.

Two Colorado filmmakers, Mona Maser and Shari Due, are working to demystify water processes with their documentary trilogy “Watering the West.”

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The series, which is told in three parts, is a deep dive — often literally — into the heart of water in Colorado as they explore how water is distributed and regulated throughout the state and how the storied history behind water rights has revolutionized the state, as well as much of the western United States.

Due, co-producer for the film series, said she started the project nine years ago out of curiosity about water issues in Colorado because she had heard that, at the time, it was illegal to collect rainwater. Even now, most rainwater collection in Colorado is prohibited, though homeowners have been allowed house water barrels to collect rainwater with some regulations since 2016.

Though Due and Maser faced a lot of complications early in the filming process, such as trying to gain the trust of those in the water resource and water business communities, Due said it was important to inform audiences about water law because many people take water for granted.

“Because we were trying to tell different perspectives and not make an advocacy film, it was challenging to raise money and get people to trust us,” Due said. “It took us two years to earn the trust of some of our sources. Eventually, we settled on moving toward the bigger story about people in the water world who have formed previously unlikely partnerships in an effort to cooperate and collaborate instead of fighting over water.”

The first film opens on a pack of beer-loving backpackers making a trek to the mecca of the beer world: the headwaters of the Cache La Poudre River in Rocky Mountain National Park. The escapade shows the Poudre from its humble beginnings, where gradually more and more streams empty out into the river, transforming it into the roaring river that fuels the beer production of companies like New Belgium Brewing, Odell Brewing Company and many more.

But the film follows the water to every corner of Colorado, from small agricultural communities to breweries and even to the courts where water rights across the state are facing challenges. The first film expands on the concept of water rights with original songs about ditch riders and water appropriation.

“I think it’s fascinating the way water law works in Colorado; (it’s) very different from back east and from anywhere else in the world,” Due said. “In fact, Western water law was developed in this state. … I was surprised at what an important role historically Colorado played in (the) development of water in the West.”

Film one, “It All Starts Here,” already debuted at The Lyric and will have another show April 19 at 5:30 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Theatre hosted by the Associated Students of Colorado State University. The second film, “Wanna Buy a Farm?” will show at The Lyric April 21 at 6 p.m. and again May 1 at 3 p.m. The final film, “Across the Divide,” will premiere May 15 at 3 p.m. at The Lyric.

“We hope that when people turn on their faucets after they see these films, they will think of the farmers and the mountain snowpack … and understand how precious that (water) is and what it takes to get it there,” Due said.

Reach Noah Pasley at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @PasleyNoah.

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