Shedding light on the watershed

Though water has become a hot topic in academic circles, the broader community isn't necessarily aware of human impact on water systems.

"Water is one of those quiet, silent things that literally flows through your life unless it's not there. Then everything stops," says filmmaker and University of Lethbridge alumna Denise Calderwood (MEd '93).

Water – specifically the watershed of Alberta's east slopes – was a natural choice for her sixth documentary, Water Resources: The East Slopes of Alberta. The film, which features researchers, ranchers and environmentalists, examines how the watershed works and is affected by human activity.

A whole range of development activities in the east slopes are gradually diminishing the capacity to deliver the water we depend on, Calderwood says.

Every film is a team effort, and Calderwood says this time she was fortunate to recruit Jeremy Emerson, who was then a fourth year student, through the Faculty of Fine Arts New Media internship program. The program is one of the many ways the U of L partners with the community, in this case to promote education about the environment.

Emerson (BFA – New Media '08), who now works for a Yellowknife film society, says this project provided a hands-on production experience, like camera operation and video editing, and opened his eyes to the complexity of water issues and the importance of research in this area.

"We don't see the effects of what we're doing to our watershed today," he says. "We could be doing horribly bad things and we wouldn't know it for a while – and by then, it could be too late."

Water Resources: The East Slopes of Alberta was screened at the University of Lethbridge in November 2008 and is now being used as a resource by the provincial government.