Telluride Institute Launches Watershed Film Series
by Peter Shelton
Jan 11, 2013 | 730 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Toward a ‘New

Water Ethic’


TELLURIDE – Thirsty?

Every living thing needs water. Supply is limited. And demand is growing.

The Telluride Institute has long focused on water issues, beginning with an effort to define, map and educate locally on the notion of watershed, specifically the watershed of the San Miguel River, from its headwaters above Telluride and Ophir to its confluence with the Dolores River.

Now TI is ramping up a new watershed initiative, in two parts. The first event is the screening, at the Nugget Theater on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 8 p.m., of the Redford Center documentary Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West.

The film – about the Colorado River, its complicated history and controversial future – uses character studies to tell the story, from a fishing guide at the headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to a rancher in Durango, from a group of river rafting Outward Bound teens to a project manager at the river’s delta, in Mexico, a place that rarely sees water actually reach the sea.

According to Institute supporter Audrey Marnoy, “The goal [of the screening and associated panel discussion] is to bring a wide array of stakeholders and community members together to view this inspiring film and engage panel members to best understand the current and future environmental and social issues affecting our global water resources. The ultimate goal is to advance the film’s ‘New Water Ethic,’ illuminating how letting go of the ways of old can lead to a path of coexisting, with enough for all. The specific goal will be to inspire personal water conservation pledges in addition to supporting the efforts to reconnect the Colorado River with its delta.”

The river’s first white explorer, John Wesley Powell, saw trouble from the beginning. He correctly predicted that the coming of civilization to the arid land through which the river flows would eventually lead to crisis.

The Colorado currently supports 30 million people, their agriculture, urban growth, mining and energy development. That number is expected to top 50 million by 2050. And with warming temperatures and increasingly erratic precipitation patterns, the need for “a new water ethic” becomes clear.

Executive Producer Robert Redford says of the film: “If we see the Colorado River as just a river, we are overlooking a natural engine that powers both our economy and our environment. We want this film to raise awareness to the idea that this river is the canary in the coal mine. If business, government and citizens come together and make some changes, the mighty Colorado can continue to serve us.”

The Watershed screening comes to Telluride by the joint efforts of Telluride Institute President Dan Collins, who saw the documentary at Arizona State University, where he is professor of  Intermedia in the School of Art and Digital Culture, and TI’s Watershed Education Director Laura Kudo, with the Institute’s VISTA intern, Sophia Cinnamon.

Looking forward to engaging the Telluride community on the issue, Marnoy said, “Water is one of the most threatened critical resources, and with the current events of the joint agreement with Mexico to address the Colorado, this is a great opportunity to bring together the public and experts to stimulate further conservation and restoration efforts.”




The second part of the Institute’s new push on water is called the Watershed Expedition Series, a quarterly film and lecture series jointly supported by the Watershed Education Program and Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library.

VISTA intern Sophia Cinnamon ( is spearheading this one, with an emphasis, she says, on “creating a platform for local explorers to share with the community about their adventures and the relation to the natural resources they depend on to travel and recreate.”

The first evening in the series features two Colorado College graduates and their films “at the crossroads of watershed development and conservation.”

Zak Podmore will screen his film Remains of a River at the Library on Tuesday, . on Jan. 22, at 6 p.m. (A reception with the presenters precedes the show at 5:30 p.m.)

According to Cinnamon, this is a “source-to-sea” paddling adventure, which “exposes the current state of the Colorado River.”

The second presenter is Julia Nave, who will talk about her recent trip to the Sacred Headwaters area of British Columbia. With a National Geographic Young Explorer’s grant, she and five other skiers explored the remote Tadogin Plateau backcountry, a pristine wilderness under threat of mining and fracking.

The series will run quarterly, with a second event coming in May. For more information, visit

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