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'Last Call' Sounds Water Alarm in Dry World

Academy Award-winning director Jessica Yu's “Last Call at the Oasis” explores the earth's dwindling water supply. (ATO Pictures)
Academy Award-winning director Jessica Yu's “Last Call at the Oasis” explores the earth's dwindling water supply. (ATO Pictures)
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich sounds the alarm on the world's water crisis in the documentary "Last Call at the Oasis," by Oscar-winning director Jessica Yu. The film highlights water pollution, depletion and potential wars over vanishing water resources.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to understand if you take more water out of the bathtub than you put into the bathtub, the bathtub will eventually go empty,” marine biologist Tim Barnett says in the film.

The Colorado River system is shrinking, according to Barnett. For example, the level of Lake Mead, which feeds the Hoover Dam, has been dropping more than three meters every year.

“Today it’s only about 40 percent full,” he says.

If it drops about 10 meters more, the dam won't be able to generate electricity for California, Nevada and Arizona.

Other scientists featured in the documentary warn that, by 2025, half of the world’s population will have no access to water.

Brockovich is especially vocal. She was key in the victory against a California power plant which leaked toxic chemicals into the ground water of a small town, sickening many residents.

A movie about that battle, starring Julia Roberts, made Brockovich famous. Now, Brockovich wants Americans to wake up.

“I think the moment is here, with documentaries like this, with us seeing on a global level, the collapse that is going on," she says. "Right here in America, don’t think it’s not you, it’s already you.”

In real life, Brockovich continues to take on politicians, corporations and even the US Environmental Protection Agency, which she calls indifferent.

“I always thought the EPA was one of the greatest institutions that we ever created and it’s failed miserably," she says. "And I’m not sure why. Since I began my work in Hinkley, California, in 1991, EPA was never involved.”

The EPA declined to comment but said in a statement that the “EPA is working to advance the use of green infrastructure to reduce water pollution, beautify communities and create jobs.”

However, in the documentary, University of California endocrinologist Tyrone Hayes says chemicals that seep into the water supply, such as the herbicide atrazine, continue to jeopardize wildlife and humans.

“We found that the atrazine-exposed animals weren’t making testosterone properly," Hayes says. "In some cases, the atrazine makes them make enough estrogen that they actually turn into females.”

Other films, such as Irena Salina’s "Flow," have also focused on water pollution and depletion. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, made a film called "Grand Canyon Adventure, River At Risk."

“As we head for this train wreck, we are still building golf courses in Phoenix, in Scottsdale, and communities throughout the West," he said when the film was released in 2008, "and we’re encouraging people to settle there and the water simply does not exist.”

While Kennedy believes legislation can fix the problem, in "Last Call at the Oasis," Brockovich has no trust in politicians.

“I have to tell you, in every community I am involved with, it will be a mother whose child is being affected that’s going to come out and really have something to say,” Brockovich says.

The film says there's still time to turn things around by taking responsibility for our actions and speaking up.