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World Water Day: Must-Watch Documentaries

From Kenyan water women, to Iran’s drought crisis and a polluted paradise: our picks for World Water Day, and every day.


The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal clearly states the goal of “water for all by 2030”. However, access to safe and clean water sources and sanitisation is still a work in progress for numerous countries worldwide. 

From Iran’s water crisis, to Senegal’s sinking villages, China’s underwater hunt and a polluted paradise – here are eight documentaries looking at communities suffering from the political and corporate abuse of water sources, villages in the cold grasp of climate change, and innovative solutions to combat droughts and floods in a global quest to conserve the life-giving resource.

Iran’s Water Crisis


It is hard to imagine life without access to sufficient quantities of fresh water, but in some parts of the world, particularly the Middle East, that is becoming more than a theoretically disturbing possibility, as climate change, mass migration, environmental degradation, drought and political instability – among other issues – make the use and management of diminishing water resources an increasing challenge.

It’s a particular concern in Iran, where a number of problems – not least the stifling effect of years of international sanctions – mean water depletion is now receiving some serious attention.

People & Power sent reporter Gelareh Darabi and a team from earthrise, Al Jazeera’s environmental series, to investigate the reasons for Iran’s water crisis and the innovative schemes now being adopted to resolve it.

Senegal’s Sinking Villages 


Doune Baba Dieye was once a vibrant fishing community on the Langue de Barbarie, a narrow, 30km peninsula that has protected the Senegalese port city of Saint-Louis from the Atlantic Ocean for centuries.

But changing weather patterns and heavy rainfall in 2003 led to flooding inland and a rise in sea levels that have now submerged part of the south of the peninsula. Today, the southern part of the Langue de Barbarie is an island and the village of Doune Baba Dieye under more than a metre of water.

In an effort to redress the disaster, Senegal has launched a series of engineering studies and hired a French construction company to build an embankment that will shield coastal homes from the ocean. 

China’s Underwater Hunt


What do you find 3 kilometres under the sea?

In China’s Underwater Hunt, a team of Chinese scientists embark on a daring deep-sea mission to find out – travelling to places no human has ever been, rich with rare resources and unique creatures.

Sailing on one of the oldest research ships in the world, the group face high seas, cyclones, and constant seasickness as they explore the depths of the Indian Ocean.

One of those on board is Zang Yi – a young woman training as China’s first female deep-sea submersible pilot, she dreams of making discoveries that will support future life on earth.

Kenya’s Water Women


In the western Kenyan town of Kakamega and the nearby village of Sisokhe, social worker Rose Atieno and nurse Catherine Ondele are using rainwater-harvesting technology to bring clean water to villages.

As Atieno says, the men in rural villages make the water policies, but it is the women who feel the “pinch”: collecting water is physically difficult, time-consuming, and can make them vulnerable to rape.

In 2011, Atieno was one of the women participating in the Global Women’s Water Initiative project which provides women with the skills to build, repair and maintain rainwater harvesting tanks.

Since then, the trained women masons have helped other women build new tanks and turn their water into a money-spinner by selling it to the water company.

We follow Atieno and Ondele to see how Kenya’s female water tank masons are empowering women in rural villages and bringing measurable benefits to their families, communities – and their country.

Indonesia’s most polluted River

The Colorado River: A Lifeline Running Dry


A drought in the western United States created a battle over resources, as private landowners compete with the public over access to freshwater supplies.

In April of 2015, California’s governor, Jerry Brown, announced a series of mandatory restrictions, forcing residents to reduce their water usage by 25 percent in the coming year. But despite playing a massive role in depleting local water supplies, the state’s powerful agriculture industry has been left unaffected.

It’s not just California facing a future without water. More than 40 million people across seven US states and Mexico get their water from the Colorado River – where demand is exceeding supplies.

So who really owns the water? And who decides when and how to use it?

New Zealand: Polluted Paradise 


 Click here to watch Part II.

New Zealand’s pristine and abundant rivers and lakes have long been central to its proud reputation as a land of breath-taking natural beauty – and fundamental to a clean, green, outdoorsy brand that attracted millions of foreign visitors every year.

But are its waterways really as sparkling and bountiful as the tourist ads suggest?

In this two-part investigation, People and Power raises troubling questions about what can happen when a nation’s desire for economic growth, however understandable and justifiable it may be, takes undue precedence over the environment.

Jordan’s Water Wise Women


Jordan is going through a severe drought. Groundwater reserves are being depleted at an alarming rate and around 40 percent of the water distributed to homes across the country is lost through illegal wells and faulty pipes. According to the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, it is estimated that by 2025 Jordan’s water needs will exceed its resources by more than 26 percent.

Empowering citizens to make responsible water usage a personal mission is among the ministry’s methods of water management. Through the Water Wise Women’s initiative, local ladies are being trained to be plumbers. They are now able to deal with any leakages in their homes and communities, thereby saving water.

Amani Zain visited Jordan to learn about the water initiative that is putting women at the heart of efforts to combat water scarcity.

Flood-Resilient Homes in Pakistan: A Traditional Future


Yasmeen Lari is Pakistan’s first female architect and one of the most successful providers of disaster relief shelters in the world. She has built more than 36,000 houses for victims of floods and earthquakes in Pakistan since 2010.

Lari once built giant concrete and steel buildings for clients such as the Pakistani State Oil company. But when disaster struck in 2005, she turned to traditional techniques to design flood and earthquake-proof buildings for people in remote regions.

Shunning the structurally weak, mass-produced houses offered by international organisations, Lari uses vernacular techniques and local materials such as lime and bamboo.

In this 2014 Rebel Architecture film, she returns to the Sindh region to see how her homes survived the 2013 floods.