Distributor:  Bullfrog Films
Length:  62 minutes
Date:  2004
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English; Hindi; Spanish; Tamil
Grade level: 10-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
You must register and login to preview and purchase items.
You might also be interested in...


New to Docuseek2? Please register and login to preview and/or license this film. If your institution has already licensed this film, you will need to access this page from your institution's network to watch the film. For help on using Docuseek2, please visit our help wiki.

A piercing look at the global corporate drive to control and profit from our water -- from bottles to tap.


Is water part of a shared 'commons', a human right for all people? Or is it a commodity to be bought, sold, and traded in a global marketplace? THIRST tells the stories of communities in Bolivia, India, and the United States that are asking these fundamental questions, as water becomes the most valuable global resource of the 21st Century.

A character-driven documentary with no narration, THIRST reveals how the debate over water rights between communities and corporations can serve as a catalyst for explosive and steadfast resistance to globalization.

'THIRST is a provocative portrayal in stark human terms of current battles over water privatization. Communities rise in protest; corporate interests seem to turn a deaf ear. Can there be a middle ground? THIRST provides a passionate jumping off point for a debate that is just beginning.' Tom Graff, Environmental Defense

'THIRST brilliantly dramatizes a potential threat of great enormity. A careful and deeply disturbing film about the threat to human safety and survival worldwide by corporate attempts to privatize the earth's water supplies.' Norris Hundley, author, The Great Thirst and Professor Emeritus of History, UCLA

'A moving and inspiring film about one of the biggest water issues of our day...it sounds a clarion call for citizens and governments to reaffirm that water is a public trust, not a commodity to be exploited for private profit. I hope THIRST is viewed widely, discussed at town meetings and in legislative debates, and that it energizes citizen involvement in water decisions. A powerful -- and needed -- film.' Sandra Postel, Director, Global Water Policy Project

'Do you know who controls your water? You'd better find out. As this powerful film shows, it may already be a private corporation run from afar. THIRST challenges apathy and ignorance about our most precious resource and shows how every citizen's voice can, indeed must, make a difference. See this film, and be inspired to act.' Peter H. Gleick, 2003 MacArthur Fellow and author, The World's Water

'THIRST is a remarkable film. The looming freshwater crisis is the greatest environmental and human rights crisis of our time. Not surprisingly, the move is on by powerful corporations and governments to commodify and cartelize the world's water supplies for power and profit. THIRST is the story of this assault and the fight to stop it.' Maude Barlow, National Chair, Council of Canadians and Co-author, with Tony Clarke, Blue Gold, The Fight to Stop Corporate Theft of the World's Water

'Beautiful and engaging...' Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director

'THIRST is an important and timely film, and vividly illustrates the human costs of commodifying a most basic human right -- water. From women in India struggling to care for their families in the absence of fresh water and adequate sanitation to the people of Stockton, California, fighting to maintain control over their water resources, THIRST tells a powerful story of resistance and survival.' California State Senator Liz Figueroa (D, Fremont) Chair, Select Committee on International Trade Policy Chair

'THIRST beautifully shows how the labor movement can work closely with community groups and the environmental movement to defend public jobs and the public trust. Struggles for control of water could become the focus for creative new coalitions to reverse the tide of privatization.' Peter Olney, Institute for Labor and Employment, University of California

'THIRST is a transformative experience. As patrons left the theater, it was clear that the entertainment they had witnessed had progressed to education, visual beauty to substantive understanding. They had been fulfilled and motivated, their minds engaged and expanded. Despite the fact that the issues raised often inflame the passions, audience members felt they had grown without rancor, moved forward without leaving any players or arguments behind.' Professor Robert Benedetti, Executive Director, Jacoby Center for Regional and Community Studies, University of the Pacific

'THIRST documents how power, politics and money all combine in the raging international debate about water policy. The underlying issues of community versus corporate control are remarkably similar whether in India or the United States. The control of water may be responsible for more political, economic and even military clashes in the 21st century than was oil in the 20th.' Congressman George Miller (D-7, California) Former Chair, House Committee on Natural Resources

Voted one of 'Top 10 Environmental Documentaries of 2009...Will make viewers think twice the next time they take a sip from the tap.' Mother Nature Network

'Surprisingly captivating...unlike so many other documentaries about multinationals -- documentaries that tend to be overbearingly supercilious and contemptuous -- THIRST simply lets the story tell itself...THIRST is like a message in a bottle sent from the future. It tells the beginning of what could be one of the major political and economic issues to shape the next century. Don't say they didn't warn you.' Phil Busse--The Portland Mercury

'THIRST gives you dry mouth.' Matthew Hirsch, San Francisco Bay Guardian

'Another smart bottom-to-top take on complexly related racial, economic, legislative, and individual issues. The crux here: can water access remain 'part of the global commons' everyone should have free access to, or is it doomed to become an economic commodity bought and sold like any other?...This important and engrossing film provides a spur to activism that no one should ignore, unless they're rich enough in obliviousness to propose, 'Let them drink sake.'' Dennis Harvey, San Francisco Bay Guardian

'By showing how activists in Stockton, Cochabamba and India are all...thinking globally but acting locally, Snitow and Kaufman give us a provocative look at the current and coming water wars...After seeing THIRST it will be hard to ever take water for granted.' Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle

'A groundbreaking and provocative new film about the rush to privatize what the filmmakers rightly define as the very essence of life.' Silja J.A. Talvi, AlterNet

'THIRST insightfully and thoroughly explores the contentious issues surrounding water privatization, showing us that it's not merely a Third World concern but a dark and growing trend right here in our own backyard.' Shannon Abel, HOT DOCS Canadian International Documentary Festival

'A compelling study of corporate greed, exploitation of the disadvantaged, and volatile uprising among civic-minded protestors demanding equal voice in a controversial issue...A valuable tool for awareness and activism, especially in water rich communities that could become the next battleground for the public's right to water, THIRST deserves to be seen by all who drink, flush, and cook with life's most essential element. Highly recommended.' Video Librarian

'Highly Recommended' Educational Media Reviews Online

'Both educational and informative, Thirst tells a compelling part of the water rights' story and urges us all to take an interest in our water before it is too late.' GreenMuze.com


National PBS Broadcast on 'POV'
The Chris Statuette, Columbus International Film and Video Festival
Top 10 Environmental Documentaries of the Year List, Mother Nature Network
CINE Golden Eagle Award
Docume Prize, Cervino International Film Festival, Italy
First Place, EarthVision Enviromental Film Festival
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Hot Docs, Toronto
Margaret Mead Film Festival
American Public Health Association Film Festival
Seattle International Film Festival
Vermont International Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival
Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival
Planet in Focus, Toronto International Environmental Film Festival
Amnesty International Film Festival, West Hollywood
Public Citizen Water Justice Film Festival
Gimli Film Festival
Taos Mountain Film Festival&

Thirst Transcript


Super: World Water Forum, Kyoto, Japan
Mahmoud Abu-Zeid President, World Water Forum; The world's attention and eyes are focusing on us today as we witness the largest gathering dealing with one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century: freshwater.

Prince Naruhito of Japan:  This water is now in a stage of crisis and due to the rapid increase in the world's population, this situation is expected to become even more serious.

Gerard Payen, CEO, Ondeo/Suez Water: The challenge here is to provide access to all the unserved peoples for an affordable price. My experience as a water professional is that it is possible. It is possible, but there are conditions.

Maude Barlow, Chair, Council of Canadians: The political question really is who owns water and who gets to control water. Here you going to hear or you are hearing two very very different visions of a future for water. On one side, those who see water as an economic good to put water on the open market for sale to the highest bidder. On the other hand, you're going to hear the voice of a growing civil society movement who has a vision of water as part of the global commons and treat it as a public trust for all time by governments everywhere.

Pablo Solon, Bolivia: People were killed by the army because what you are saying here.

Peter Woicke, Managing Director, The World Bank: Someone has to pay for water, ladies and gentlemen, whether its the users or the future generations, that is the reality.

Oscar Olivera, La Coordinadora, Bolivia: Many of the companies represented here have stained the water with the blood of our compatriots. Do not stain your hands with blood anymore.

Title: Thirst

Text: Pressured by the World Bank, Bolivia privatized water in its third largest city. A consortium led by the U.S.-based Bechtel Corporation received exclusive rights to all city water sources. The response was unexpected.

Super: Cochabamba, Bolivia


Olivera: There was a feeling of indignation of saying 'Enough' because everything in Bolivia had been privatized.

Oscar Olivera, La Coordinadora:  The only things that hadn't been privatized in Bolivia were the air and water. At the start of the contract, the company raised the rates. We can show that Bechtel raised rates 30 to 300%.
And what was Bechtel's attitude? To never show its face.

Oscar on balcony over crowd

Olivera: The government not only called on the police and military but also snipers dressed in civilian clothes, who shot into the crowds of people during the final days of the conflict. That’s when 17 year old Victor Hugo Daza was killed.

Olivera: After seeing death, injuries, so many days of paralysis of the country’s economic activities, the government decided to do as the people wished. They kicked out the Bechtel consortium.

Olivera at Press conference: “This is the decision and struggle of the men, women, children and old people, of all the people of Cochabamba. This is the first step we have taken, a very small but important one, towards the meaning of democracy.”


Text: Across the United States, cities and towns must replace aging pipes and water plants at an estimated cost of a trillion dollars. Potential profits are attracting global water companies, but public opinion is divided over water privatization.

Super: Stockton, California

Demonstration against privatization

Super: Stockton City Hall

Demonstration bullhorn speaker: Is this America?
Crowd: Yes.
Speaker: Are we US citizens?
Crowd: Yes.
Speaker: This is a democracy. Yes?
Crowd: Yes
Speaker: The people have a right to vote. Yes?
Crowd: Yes
Speaker: Well, what's going on in there? Talk to us.
Person in crowd:  People should decide. Let the people vote.
Another person: Give the vote to the people.
Another: We live in a democracy.

Dean Cofer: Brothers and Sisters. You pretty much name it. The people of Stockton are here. We want the people to vote.

Chant: Water for life, not for profit. Water for life, not for profit. Water for life, not for profit.

Dean Cofer, Operating Engineers Union: I think water is the next OPEC. If you think you have problems now with oil, wait until multinationals own all the water in the world. They already are buying in South America. in Europe, and in the United States. Once they get a stranglehold on water, be prepared to pay gas prices for water.

Chant: Let the people vote. Let the people vote. Let the people vote.

Michael McDonald: These people aren’t in here to do the citizens of Stockton a favor.  They’re in it to make money.

View of Stockton Sewage Plant

Super: Stockton Municipal Wastewater Plant

McDonald: I don't like the idea of my water being controlled by a private company. Especially in these times.

Michael McDonald, Supervisor, Stockton Municipal Water Plant:  I'd rather it stay here under our local control and our employees live here. Most of them have gone to school here. They're raising their children here.
Plant employees with McDonald
McDonald: It’s important to them that they do a good job. And we don’t have to think  about, you know,  how we’re going to make a profit here. All we have to think about how we can gonna make a… provide a good service to the citizens.
He gets in truck/views of the plant and San Joaquin River
McDonald: I was actually born in Mississippi, but I've been here since I was three years old. As kids, we used to go fishing back behind the plant. We'd walk down the railroad tracks and we'd ride our bicycles down there and that's where we used to go fishing at… Striped bass, catfish, sturgeon.
With employees
McDonald: Did you guys all make out your time cards already?
McDonald: My hand print is on everything there. I've been involved in almost all the jobs that have gone on at that plant for 25 years.
He tips his hat to other employees
McDonald: All the way baby..

TV News story
Anchor: Stockton is deciding whether or not to let a private company run much of the city's water system, This is the brainchild of Mayor Gary Podesto. He says the plan could save the city 170 million dollars over 20 years. News Ten's Tim Daly is there live right now...
Podesto: It is not truly privatizing.
Reporter: Okay, if it makes so much sense, why is there so much opposition?
Podesto: They confuse this with this globalization issue.
Reporter: You have boats out there going up and down the river, bullhorns telling you that this is a bad idea.
Podesto: Yup. Fortunately, I can't hear them in here.
Boat protest
Dezaraye Bagalayos: Let us vote. Let us vote. Let us vote. Let us vote.

Coffee shop. Sound of coffee being made.
Dezaraye Bagalayos, community activist: You know this is a really conservative town..
Policeman comes in.
Officer: Hello
Bagalayos: Hi
Officer: Why are you popular today?
Bagalayos: He likes to come by and make sure I stay out of trouble.
Officer: Of course. Cause we’ve heard you get in trouble a lot.
Bagalayos: Not as much as I'd like.
Bagalayos: I was born and raised here. And I heard that they were trying to privatize the water here and I was like, OK. Well, I don’t… you know it was more of a bigger issue. It was globalization as far as I as concerned, and it was something that was taking place right here. It was something that I could actually like you know put my hands in and it wasn't so abstract because it was happening right here.

Bagalayos and others enter Citizens Coalition Meeting.
Super: Citizens Coalition of Stockton Meeting
Bagalayos: We're hoping to leave by 4:15 with the puppets and the signs we made. And so…
Juliette Beck: Put the onus back on them to prove where has there been a city that saved money with privatization?
Mario D’Angeli: Is there anybody on the council other than the mayor who you think could get up and make a twenty minute intelligible...
Diane Park: Well, you know, that's the whole joke of this...
Dale Stocking: Mayor Podesto owns the gavel.
Ursula: Yes, I know, but we can ask the questions.
Stocking: Right Right.
Stocking: We're basically a grassroots citizens group of people, and we have other days jobs...
Dr. Stocking’s Orthodontist office
Stocking: Are you going to stick with strawberry or do you want to switch to bubblegum?
Stocking: I've been in the area all my life.. was born and raised a conservative Republican and for the last probably ten to fifteen years now, I'm registered decline to state. I’m not an community activist. I’m an involved citizen. You know, I read the ballot. I vote. I get involved on issues and if there's an issue I feel about, I get involved in that. You know, whether I'm an orthodontist,  whether I'm a housekeeper, water is important to all of us, and many in the community are opposed to the idea of turning our municipal utilities over to a private company. When privatization happens, services have been known to get worse. I would hope the city council would choose to at least delay a definitive action until after a vote of the people.

Demonstration at City Hall
Michael McDonald: It's like what's happening in some of the underdeveloped countries. There are people there that can't even afford to pay for the water. That's a basic need. That's a basic right. Without water we can't survive.
Crowd: Fight back. Fight back.
Bagalayos: When democracy is under attack, what do we do?
Crowd: Fight back. Fight back.
Bagalayos: When water…


Super: World Water Forum, Kyoto, Japan

Moderator: Thank you panelists. There may be one or two burning questions, but remember we're going to come back. Go ahead, please. The microphone to that gentleman out there.
Hiroshi Kanno: I had to mortgage my farm in order to fight them in court. At what point does a corporation not understand that we do not want you there and when will you leave?
Holly Wren Spaulding: My name is Holly Wren Spaulding and I’m from the Great Lakes. I’m sure you know where that is because there’s quite a lot of water there and some of you are already exploiting it. I’m very concerned about the mining of groundwater and the...and the fact that it’s being put in small plastic bottles which we see all over this conference.  I think it’s a horrible image to present if you’re talking about conservation of water…
Moderator: Next person, please…
Rajendra Singh: Rajendra Singh from India. Local control over water can save our communities and the world’s water. I come from India’s desert state, Rajasthan, where there is almost no rain, but we worked together to provide water for all. This can be done everywhere.

Super: Rajasthan, India

Text: In India, the national government and local communities are on a collision course. A grassroots movement for local control of water opposes government plans to privatize rivers, streams and wells.

CNN, Satinder Bindra, In Rajasthan, India: About 500,000 villagers in this region are now practicing rainwater harvesting, and everyday day more and more people are joining the cause. The people have realized that self-help can be a lot more effective than huge and environmentally-destructive hydroelectric power projects run by a far away government. Leading this movement is a man the locals here call a modern day Gandhi.

Singh digs

Rajendra Singh: What we are trying to do is to make the community self-reliant, to stand on its own feet.
He points to the johad
Singh: See this small johad (reservoir). These small ponds help to hold the rainwater. In spite of a five-year drought, there is still wetness in the earth.
The water soaks into the ground and seeps downstream where it fills the village wells. And through that farming improves…

Dry riverbeds and then rivers flowing
Singh: Water flows into the heart of the earth. Springs burst forth. Old dry rivers start to flow with life again. How the face of the earth changes!

Young people filling water jugs/threshing/going to school

Singh: And all of the young people who migrated to the cities returned to the village. In 1984, when we first started working here in this village, not even a single girl was going to school. Now all the girls are going to school. I believe that if this work were done all over, the poor of this country could rise.

Singh walks around johad
Singh: This is a time of very serious crisis in our country. 78/21:32:35—Now, it’s necessary to begin a journey, a national march to tell the country about threats to our water.  Let me tell you one thing: local action, small local action, can change global thinking in a second. It influences global thinking in no time.

Women hold a meeting
Singh: Starting from such a small spot, it spreads in the village, in the country and the world.


OMI/Thames video
Super: Corporate Promotional Video
Video: Every day all around the globe, we're providing clean water and other vital services.
Dreda Gaines: We've worked in places like Malaysia and India and the Middle East. Thames water is a British company.
Dreda Gaines, Vice President, Thames Water America:  
It’s wholly owned by RWE in Germany… In the United States, the infrastructure for the future requirements, the dollar value is very high. It’s been estimated to be about two trillion dollars with all the infrastructure that’s required. And we came here to Stockton about four years ago to work with our partners OMI, and the mayor, in particular, who has been very, very supportive of this uh proposal all the way through.

Mayor shaking hands at Port of Stockton anniversary celebration.
Ron May: It’s my great pleasure now to introduce the mayor of our great society, Mayor Gary Podesto
Applause/Podesto speaks at podium
Mayor Gary Podesto: Thank you. I stand in front of you today very proud of the courageous path your city council is traveling in re-energizing this great city. It’s time that Stockton enter the 21st century in its delivery of services and think of our citizens as customers… Before this council for the past few years have been many opportunities to trim waste by outsourcing various services including the operation and maintenance of our municipal utilities.  
Podesto: I look forward...thank you, dear.
Podesto: If you haven’t met my wife, she’s in the front row.
Podesto: Oh, I can’t go anywhere with her.
Podesto: I look forward to your city council continuing the courage to act in your interest and vote to improve $172 million savings to the Stockton’s industry and residents…. [Applause}

Mayor in his office on phone
Podesto on phone: ..a couple of things to add to our goal setting sessions and that's not been resolved yet?..
Podesto: The marketplace makes you compete always. Government departments like this operate as a monopoly basically. They don’t really compete. So, there’s really not a lot of incentive to improve. Especially if they're a for profit company, you compete daily for profits…
Podesto on phone: We need to pull the trigger and commit so you can build…
Podesto: I was in the retail grocery business in this area, had what are referred to as price impact or box stories and had an opportunity to sell and retire…
Podesto on phone: Hi, George, good…
Gary Podesto, Mayor, City of Stockton:  I had friends that encouraged me to run for political office, and the one I decided to run for was mayor.
Podesto on phone: You can’t play golf today, can you? (laughs)
Podesto: The feds back in the sixties helped cities build the infrastructure through grants. Those dollars aren't there anymore. And it's several billion dollars  worth of infrastructure that has to be replaced, and the feds now believe under President Clinton and under President Bush that incorporating a partnership with the private sector, this can be done for less dollars… I think we’re elected as representative government to make these decisions, and I think that these are the kinds of tough choices that we have to make and this is one that is extremely complicated…
The contract
 A 900 page almost contract, talking about soloxain, and BAF technology, all these kinds of things, activated sludge.

Citizens Coalition Meeting
Super: Citizens Coalition of Stockton
Stocking: Okay. This is the individual that we’re up against and basically it’s a political control machine.
Gail Stocking: Bottom line is that the mayor and his group are professionals working full time and you’re all doing your other jobs and then trying to do this as volunteers and it’s naïve to think that it’s going to be easy.
Mario D’Angeli: You know, we need to protect public employment and public employees cause this privatization is partially a way to get rid of public employment and public employees.

Michael McDonald walks toward a pumping station
Michael McDonald: I am one of the employees that will not go to work for the private company. I will leave. People that say that government employees are lazy are just frustrated people who want to be government employees. Uh that's just my personal opinion.
McDonald in his office
Everyone knows you can do whatever you want with numbers. But I don’t know how the mayor can make the claim that it’s going to be cheaper. I don’t believe the 175 million dollar savings is there. I know for a fact that these guys and ladies are very very hard workers, and very very dedicated to the work that they do. You know you can go to work somewhere else other than work at a sewer plant and make a living.

Sewage Treatment plant
Mark Madison: This is really an environmental enhancement facility. It’s not just a sewer plant. We’re environmental professionals.
Steve Gittings: From this view, you get a panoramic shot of the main plant here. Then you can see the primaries where we settle out the organic material and the floatables and they actually come to the digester here. From there, we overflow by gravity into the sludge lagoon.
Madison: We are a stellar department. We are and we always have been.
Gittings: We've done a pretty good job of meeting all our permit requirements. There's a lot of satisfaction in being able to take the wastewater that comes in and turn around and put almost out tap quality water.
Madison: Well, the chemicals sure seem to be working well because the odors are way down.
Gittings: Yeah.

Larry Ruhstaller: What people don’t understand is the majority of people in California drink what comes out of the Delta.
Larry Ruhstaller walks through his restaurant
Ruhstaller: Because the public has gotten so involved with the process and feel strongly about it… that think we need to then take it out to the people and let them vote on it.
Larry Ruhstaller, Restaurant Owner, City Council Member:
He talks to customer
Ruhstaller: And I’m going if you don’t believe of you believe that there’s slippery figures here, then it’s a philosophical decision. Do you think the public should own or operate? Do you think a private company could do as good a job or better? You know.
Customer: If it’s close, my own opinion would be to keep it public, and I’ll tell you why…
Ruhstaller: I kind of do my polling in the aisle of the supermarket. They’re very passionate about it and mainly they are afraid of the loss of their water rights, their loss of ownership of that utility. I mean, it’s one of the best run, well- funded, has money in the bank, has good infrastructure. Our water company is perfect.
Customer: And now everybody’s up in arms.
Ruhstaller: Everybody’s ready to fight. All righty.

Super: City Council Chambers
City Clerk: The purpose of tonight's meeting is the approval of the service contract for wastewater, water, and stormwater utilities Stockton and OMI/Thames Water Stockton, Inc. and approving a notice of exemption under the California...
Sylvia Kothe, Chair, Citizens Coalition:  We’re the bellwether of the state and the nation… that people are looking at Stockton because of how Stockton goes on privatization, the other cities, states, will go in that direction.
Dreda Gaines: You’re always going to find controversy in these types of projects, and we’ve had a team here assisting the city in helping them to answer those questions. They should have no concerns at all.
Larry Ruhstaller: It’s amazing that Stockton has kind of drawn everyone’s attention here. People do not know or really care about water until you know they turn on the tap and it goes dry or they flush and it doesn’t go away And that’s the scary thing. Whiskey's for drinking and water's for fighting over. Ah, it's going to be a good one. That'll be a fun night.

Mayor Podesto gavels the City Council to order followed by public testimonies

Bill Loyko: This contract before you tonight is incomplete. You do not have all the information to make an informed decision.... The public morale has been dashed as one company's CEO after another, one Wall Street analyst after another, said one thing and acted out another.
Don Evans, President, OMI: We'll safeguard the water of Stockton. You have the absolute commitment of our company and you have the  commitment of Thames Water to deliver this contract effectively. That's also as the President my personal commitment to you.
Sylvia Kothe: It's clear that the decision to privatize has been made covertly without a public vote... We oppose...
Unidentified Woman: I don't think the people at home how many hundreds of people are here and that it's all filled up back here and downstairs and that it was hard to hear, so I appreciate...
Dezaraye Bagalayos: City Council members, by signing this contract without the vote of the people, you will be betraying the people you supposedly represent. Water is life. This company, OMI/Thames, wants to profit from our water. Water for life, not for profit.
Ann Johnston: I'm ashamed that we've followed this path and have gone down the road at making something happen that was not consensus building, not citizen involved. It was basically handed down as a dictate.... This is not the principal of an All-America City.
Podesto: Okay, Council member Giovanetti…
Councilmember Gary Giovanetti: Thank you. I'm prepared to approve this contract tonight ahead of the so-called vote of the people.
Councilmember Larry Ruhstaller: There comes a time when the people become so involved in an issue that it is important that they be heard by way of the ballot.
Vice Mayor Gloria Nomura: As a Christian, I've always felt that prayer is very powerful. When this process began, I have always prayed for guidance on what I should do. It says it in the Constitution that you will elect representatives to vote and to make decisions that are best for you.
Councilmember Leslie Martin: We have not been elected to baby-sit and maintain the city until a vote can be taken by the citizens on major issues.
Councilmember Dr. Eugene Nickerson: I do not feel they are too dumb to understand.
Martin: Nobody said that.
Nickerson: And, you know, the people who founded this Republic, obviously didn't think the people were too dumb to run it.
Martin: Neither Gloria nor I or anyone on this council believes that the people are too dumb to resolve or to understand the issue. That's not what we said.
Chants of "Let us vote. Let us vote"
Podesto: All right. Quiet down. Officers, close the door, please.
Podesto: Tonight, I want to thank the Council for their indulgence and their endurance and their hard work to come up with whatever their answers are tonight. Do I believe that this should go to a vote of the people? Absolutely not. That's for no more reason than I can think that any government by initiative is good.
Podesto: There's been a motion and a second. I'm calling for the question.
Please cast your votes.... Carries four three. Thank you all for all your hard work.
City Council session ends
McDonald: It was very disheartening... very disheartening. You know, they're circumventing what people have fought and died for, the right to vote on these issues. And you know I for one will never give up my right to vote.


Gerard Payen: CEO, Ondeo/Suez Water: It is possible to provide access to all people in a sustainable way. And furthermore, either in La Paz, Manila, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, more poor people are getting access to water.

Wenonah Hauter: I’m Wenonah Hauter with Public Citizen in the United States, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the happy talk we’ve heard today. What happened in Atlanta is Suez’s affiliate, United Water got the contract, fired half the staff. The water was brown. The repairs hadn’t been made.  So, I’d like a specific answer on Atlanta and how if privatization doesn’t work there, it can work anywhere? [applause]

Bill Alexander, CEO, Thames Water:  Bill Alexander, Thames Water. I'm not personally involved with Atlanta. And my company would not go anywhere it was not welcome, not go anywhere it would not make a difference, not go anywhere which is not sustainable over time.

Oscar Olivera, La Coordinadora, Bolivia: Three years ago, more than half a million people expelled the multi-national Bechtel because it imposed a privatization contract against the will of the people.

John Briscoe, Senior Water Advisor, World Bank: Your question was, how will the World Bank avoid the errors that it made in Cochabamba. And let me just give you the background for our involvement.

Briscoe:  The private sector can make money out of things like water supply services. Other people believe that the private sector should never be in this business.

Briscoe: What exactly is the role of this institution. Is it to win a popularity contest or is it one to be of service to our clients who have to they can't walk away from those issues. They have to live there.

Activists speak

Maj Fiil-Flynn: We again and again see you come in with World Bank funding that’s paid with my tax dollars. I don’t want that funding to go to you guys. …

Briscoe: Now, for the activists, because the outcome is not what they wanted, they will complain about process not being appropriate.

Briggs Makolo: We experienced a lot of problems. Now I can teach you…

Briscoe: What does it mean to say water is a human right? As those who proclaim it so, would say that it is the obligation of the government of X to provide free water to everybody. Well, that's that's that's that’s a fantasy.

Water and women at the well

Women chant and enter conference
Super: National Women's Water Conference

Singh: Before we did rainwater harvesting, women’s days were full of drudgery. They hurt their backs pulling water from wells. Our work has given women time to rest and time to think of the community’s common interests. We want to help create a women’s movement to save water and to stop the looting of water. We want to launch a water awakening.

1st Tamil woman: There is a situation now of starvation from the cruelty of hunger this year. The reason for this problem is water.
Tara Bagh: At the time of drought, we have no money. The men leave us and we then have many difficulties. How can we work and look after the children at the same time?
2nd Tamil woman:  In one week, all we get is two or three pitchers of water.
Woman in green: We used to spend hours getting water. Now we don’t have to walk so far because we constructed ponds close by.
1st Tamil: The village people are taking care of their own problems. Women, wherever they are, should fight so that water is not given to private companies. We should go on demonstrations.

Singh before crowd in tent
Singh: What is behind the effort to declare water private property? You made ponds to collect rainwater. What will happen now to that water?  The government will privatize it, giving it to private companies. Then all our work will be lost. Nothing will be left for us. We will have no right to the water we conserved. This is why the issue of privatization of water is for us the most important issue.

Singh: The issue, the basic issue, is rights. Who owns the rights? The government? This is the right of the community, of nature, and of the earth. But the government is taking ownership of this right of water due to pressure of the World Bank, the World Bank and the multinationals.

Girls dance in front of picture of Gandhi
Singh: Just as we won our independence from colonial oppression, I hope we will be successful one day in ending the privatization of water.


Operating Engineers union hall with Ghandi sign

Text: The Citizens Coalition organizes to overturn the Stockton City Council ‘s narrow vote for a contract with OMI/Thames Water.

Voice: You know, it’s the American democratic process.
Dale Stocking: It's an enormous thing to do. Now, we only have thirty days to file a referendum, to gather the required number of signatures.  Yes. It will be a massive undertaking.
John Boisa: Yeah, we’re all out today. Mom is doing something else so...
Bill Loyko: Anything that has a yellow sticker, it’s going to be where we're going to go...
People at map talk:
Here's the street right here...
I didn’t know that. You went to Lincoln. See here's the school. This is where  we went to school. This is where we live...

Loyko: The first thing you need to know is it's a pretty big document. This is the document that you will carry with you today to collect 120 signatures.... Then they're going to go through and check every single signature. Any questions at this point?
At table, people get petitions.
Sandi Norman: Okay, you got that.
Woman: Next time around, you'll be able to (inaudible) a little faster.
Dale Stocking: Hopefully, there won't be a next time.
Woman: Well, I work for a union. There's always a next time.
Susan Loyko: Good luck. May the force be with you.

Guys go door to door to collect signatures
Steve: The doughnuts are at the union hall.
Michael McDonald: Yeah. (laughter)
Orlando Lobosco: What we're doing today. Good morning, Marietta, is we're trying to get enough signatures to qualify this referendum for the ballot. If you'd like to sign, we'd love to have you.
Marietta: All righty. Bye Bye
Lobosco: Bye bye.
McDonald: He's a charmer, huh?
Lobosco: Yes, he is.
Knocking and walking
Lobosco: 1829…. Okay, we'll check next door…. Thank you. Come back?
Sure, we'll come back.
Lobosco: Are you Mr. Cazares?
Cazeras: Jose Caseras.
Cazares: Is that where the stink comes from too?
Lobosco: Well, it doesn't always smell real good. (laughter). I don't know personally if either public or private can change the smell of wastewater. Sometimes, you know, that's just a by-product.
Lobosco: Did we catch you at a bad time?
Man: I've been keeping pretty well informed on it.
Lobosco: Good
Man: Address?
Lobosco: Well, thank you. Appreciate it.
Richard: Thank you.

Ice cream truck/Dale and Gail gather signatures

Stocking: Okay, this is ten thirty.
Man: I'm tired of privatization because I keep thinking that consumers are taking it in the shorts…  Oops, there’s my avocado. Sorry.
Stocking: I really believe that the citizens referendum and gathering using volunteer signature gatherers that we've been able to do so far, that is the proper way to go.
Stocking: Good morning. Dale Stocking. My wife, Gail. And we're circulating petitions...
Stocking: Mayor Podesto actually raised a tremendous amount of money, with OMI/Thames using, you know, something like sixty thousand dollars. And tremendous amounts of mailers. They brought in automatic telephone calls, a very expensive effort to thwart our citizens’ approach to open government.

Telephone message machine
Telephone: One. You have four messages.
Podesto: Hello. This is Mayor Gary Podesto. I have a quick message for you. I’ve worked hard for Stockton for many years…
Laurie: Hi. This is Laurie. I’m sorry I missed you, but I wanted to let you know that Mayor Gary Podesto (inaudible) cost taxpayers lots of money…
Nomura: Hi. This is Vice Mayor Gloria Nomura. I wanted to let you know I am joining Mayor Gary Podesto…
Podesto: Hello.  This is Gary Podesto.  I want you to know the truth about the petition to overturn the city’s contract for operation and maintenance of our water and wastewater system.  Opponents are using misinformation and in some cases downright lies. That’s not right. You and I both know that.  The truth is, the contract is good for Stockton. I hope you agree. Thank you and have a good day.

Signature delivery. Loyko comes out of his house.
Bill Loyko: Hi, Mike.
McDonald: Hello
Loyko: How are you?
McDonald: I'm here.
Loyko: You want to help me with this?
McDonald: Absolutely. So what's the final total?
Loyko:  Eleven 732. We got five hand trucks at city hall.
McDonald: Okay.
Loyko: Let's load 'em up and go give 'em hell.
McDonald: Let's go.
Loyko: I'll see you there.

At City Hall
Bill Loyko: First time ever in my whole life I’ve ever done anything like this. So… Applause.  Uh I feel good about what we’ve done. I wish our numbers could be a little bit higher…
Bill Loyko, Citizens Coalition: In about ten days or so we’ll know whether or not we’ve qualified and what our next step is from there. We’ve sort of banded together as a group of residents now and we’re going to be the watchdogs of the city.

Stocking: One of the things that we're finding out or that I'm being exposed to is the web, the global web, that is developing and this privatization it could be a part of an overall puzzle.


CEO panel.
Antony Burgmans, Chair, Unilever: 72/5:59—As a business man I recognize more clearly than ever the centrality of water in development. 15 years ago no one talked about water. Today, water is firmly on the agenda. That is great progress.

Maude Barlow, Chair, Council of Canadians:  In recent years, what we have seen is a kind of theft of the commons, the notion that absolutely everything should be commodified and put on the open market and it is happening very very fast. Basically, we see this as an issue of human rights versus corporate rights

Water shrine in India

Rajendra Singh: In history, our ancestors considered water an offering, a holy vision, the basis for life, the essence of life. All such beliefs have changed now.

Big johad,  boys playing

Singh: In our childhood, we never imagined buying bottled water. This has spread only in the last 4-5 years. And now, water is selling at the cost of milk. A poor person cannot afford to buy it.

Chajuram’s song: Listen to this unusual story of Rajasthan. Here water is more expensive than milk. Why is it so, that water is so expensive? Big companies are oppressing us. They have bottled our water to sell. Why is it that water is so expensive?

Singh: Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola in India pump our water, taking it from under poor people’s land. But the water they fill in bottles to sell, whose water is that? This is the water of our civil society.

Anti-Coca Cola march

Singh: We are calling for an international boycott of bottled water to stop the marketization and privatization of water.

Marches in the roads

Singh: All over India, we are having marches and meetings every day in schools,  universities, with government officers, traders, and farmers to debate who is the rightful owner of water. We also teach how water can be saved and conserved and about the problem of privatization of water.

Singh speaks to crowd in tent

Singh: Every meeting ends with a call for people to boycott bottled water.  And people stand up and accept this pledge.  

2nd Tamil Woman: Water is like our soul. The women of Tamil Nadu will die but will not allow the privatization of water. (Applause).

Singh speaks in tent

Singh: I feel there is a wind blowing. We aren’t sure how things will turn out, but a movement has started to stop privatization. This can happen in the entire world.


Images of Stockton—sky, river, port.
Newspaper headlines: “Privatization foes dealt setback”
 “Push for referendum fails to get enough signatures”

Mayor Podesto: Well, my reaction to the fail (sic) of the referendum was bittersweet. Sweet in the respect to that maybe we can get started now and the ratepayers will have some savings. Bitter in the sense that it was so divisive in going through this process, but that always has a lingering effect in the community and hopefully we can get beyond that as we move forward.

Citizens Coalition meeting
Dale Stocking: We didn't have the funding to go out for a general paid collection. Where it broke down was in the first two weeks.
Bill Loyko: We just didn't have enough committed individuals dedicated to go out and get a hundred signatures.
Dezaraye Bagalayos: I want to bring this up again. When you’re talking about fighting a fight like this, there hasn’t been one case that I witnessed in hearing all these other people’s stories from not only in North America but from around the world, that people have won these battles without civil disobedience.
John Boisa: I think that there’s ways to run a more disciplined campaign than what we've been doing. You know, running this as a campaign that's going to be a smart campaign, that's dedicated to one goal and that's winning.
Susan Loyko: You know one thing I want to say and that I want to add on the list is that this group took the high road.
Woman: Yes, we did.
Susan: We did not run in the mud with the rest of them. This was always a well organized, grassroots, citizens-based effort. And I don't think you can find a finer group of people to work with. And I think we did great. We all know this isn't over. We know we've learned a lot. We've got a lot to learn, but we always took the high road, and I am very proud to be a member of this coalition. (Applause)
John Boisa: I'm not here to make people feel good, folks. And I'm going to be blunt now. And I might hurt people's feelings. All right, but the fact is that when you ran this thing and you worried about the high road and when you worried about your feelings, all right, you ran this thing in a manner that would have failed. So the difference is, a winning campaign is one where you win. A losing campaign is one where you lose and then maybe the day later at least you can say I feel good about myself, so are we going to have a campaign...
Stocking: The rest of the nation is looking at California. And what I'm telling people is when you hear the first indication towards privatization, start a community, start a grassroots activity and if it appears that you are being railroaded into something or a small group is in control of an issue, then the citizens immediately have to move to an initiative to bring, to require public participation and a public vote.

Michael McDonald at the plant
McDonald: Well, this is it. Twenty six years.
McDonald: The mood at the plant has been very tense. Very emotional. Today, the transition period officially began. The employees turned in their ID cards so they are no longer city employees and they received identification badges for OMI/Thames.
Lobosco: We're not going to finish our careers together like we started.
Employees gather round
Lobosco: Will everybody gather round for a second?
McDonald: You guys know that I'm a big old baby.
Lobosco: A good friend and a good supervisor is going to be leaving us, and I want you to know this is a classic hat. A very beautiful Raider hat.
McDonald: They got people depressed about being split away from one another that's been together for years, being forced to take another job that, you know… You always want to leave a job on your own terms.
Lobosco: One of his biggest faults is that he has a problem getting to work on time. He's always about two hours early.
Lobosco: We figured that if we got him a nice little watch, that maybe he'd be able to tell time to get to work on time. All right. Everybody needs a gold watch too.
(Applause and hug.)
McDonald: Well, thank you all. I’m overwhelmed. This is totally unexpected. I didn’t expect anything, didn’t want anything. I can honestly say that, you know, not only do I appreciate being your supervisor, but your friend as well. I’m sad and I’m angry, but I’m happy. I got all these wonderful people in my life that will always be there. And I just want to thank you all very much.
Man: Michael
(Applause and hugs.)
McDonald: You guys been great. You all made me look good, man.
Richard: You, you made yourself look good.


Payen: It has been possible to provide access to millions of people. So, I would like to say that when well-designed, public private partnerships deliver huge results. They can be win win win projects which benefit all parties including the urban poor.

Peter Woicke, Managing Director, The World Bank: Somebody has to pay for water, ladies and gentlemen. And I think we have come up with some practical choices. We haven’t covered everything as some of the speakers said, but in order to come up with the investments which are needed for the poor. And I agree 100 percent that we have to find ways of serving the poor in a way that they can afford the water.

Protest interrupts
Chants: Water for people, not for profit. Water for people, not for profit. Water for people, not for profit. One two three four, millions for water, not for war. One two three four, millions for water, not for war

Protest rally outside hall
Vandana Shiva: How will they increase water resource availability? They keep talking about financial resource doubling. They don’t talk about river flow doubling, stream flow doubling, well water doubling. That’s what women talk about.

Patrick Apoya: Enough is enough. I see this report as nothing short of an attempt to package poverty for money and for profit.

Oscar Olivera: As in Cochabamba, water is the patrimony of people, water is the patrimony of all living things, and nobody, nobody can be owner of water. In this way, civil society is saying there is no consensus here.

Bolivia marches, women confronting soldiers
Olivera: For thirty years, we had been repeating the slogan, “The people united will never be defeated,” but they were words carried off into the wind because the people never won. Many thought that globalization had taken away our ability to unite, to organize, to feel the solidarity people felt in the past, when our grandparents and parents spoke of their struggles. I believe the struggle over water showed us that those feelings and values were not lost. Now, people had lost their fear. From that moment, I knew we would win. I decided to believe in the people, this collective will of the people had not been in vain.

Marches and protests in India, Kyoto and Stockton.

Chants: Water for life, not for profit. Water for life, not for profit.
Let the People Vote. Let the people vote.
Speaker at Rally: They really don’t know what’s going on. And they shouldn’t have the right to vote our water rights away.

Rain and water


Produced and Directed by
Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman

Edited by
Kenji Yamamoto

Music Composed By
Fred Frith

Stockton Crew
Principal Camera
Assistant Director    Vicente Franco
Wellington Jon Bowler
Wellington Jon Bowler

Kyoto Crew
Principal Camera
Sound    Marsha Kahm
Claudia Katayanagi

India Crew
Location Manager
Principal Camera
Sound    T. Jayashree
Avijit Mukul Kishore
Girjashankar Vohra

Assistant Editor
Annelise Wunderlich

Additional Camera
Stacy Bloom
Richard Gunderman
Alejandro Janco J.
 Javier Molina M.
Erich Roland
Ismael Saavedra
Alan Snitow
Annelise Wunderlich
Fawn Yacker

Additional Sound
Louis Block
Phil Perkins
Len Schmidt
Jonathan Silvio

On Line Edit
Ed Rudolph, Video Arts

Sound Supervisor & Mix
James LeBrecht, Berkeley Sound Artists
Sound Editor
Eli Yerbury
Additional Sound Design
John Rieger

Music Recorded at
Guerrilla Recording, Oakland, California
Sound Engineers
Myles Boisen
Jonathan Segel

Fred Frith
Bass, Drum, Guitar, Piano, Vibes, Homemade

Sheela Bringi
Heather Heise
Carla Khilstedt
Gino Robair
Wu Fei    Bansuri
Accordian, Piano
Nyckelharpa, Violin
Gu zheng

Chajuram’s Song
Chajuram Gujjar

Hindi Translations
Rashmi Bajoria
Shripad Dharmadhikary
Shobna Nijhawan
Veena Nijhawan
Bipin Todur

Tamil Translation
Kausalya Hart

Spanish Translations
Sophia Allen
Karen Cocq
Domingo Gonzalez
Megan Lardner
Annelise Wunderlich

Additional Footage
Don Briggs
California Dept. of Water Resources, George Madson
Centre for Science and Environment
CNN Global Challenges
Earthcare, Krishnendu Bose
Productores y Periodistas, Oswaldo Rioja Vasquez
Thames Water
Third Eye Communications, C. Saratchandran
Voluntarios Bolivia, Javier Molina M. & Lee Cridland
World Water Forum

James Wagstaffe, Kerr & Wagstaffe

Turid Larsen

Heather Larsen

Tony Clarke
Peter Gleick
Susan Griffin
John Leshy
Sandra Postel
Isha Ray

Major Funding
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Additional Funding
The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation
Panta Rhea Foundation
Park Foundation
Abraham and Lillian Rosenberg Foundation
The Walnut Fund/San Francisco Foundation

Additional Support
Peter Barnes
Jerry Barrish
Alan and Muriel Brodsky
Sandra Coliver
Rick Cummings
Shirley and Bill Daleski
Nan Fink Gefen
Carl Grunfeld
Howard Herman and Claudia Bernard
Arthur Hiller
Bernard Kaufman
Frida Koppl
Hannah Kranzberg
Jeremy Larner
Alan Ramo
David Rosenthal and Eve Yarmo
Ethel Sanjines
Ann Snitow
Steven Swig

Nancy Alexander            Morris Allen
Paul Apodaca            Patrick Apoya
Frank Arundel            Juliette Beck
Robert Benedetti            John Boisa
David Boys                David Brown
Bonnie Burt            Tania Chelnov-Snitow
Jennifer Chinlund        Michael Cohen
Peter Cook                Gail Dolgin
Scott Dwyer            Krystyn Ebro
Jon Else                Barbara Epstein
Paul Fairbrook            Maj Fiil-Flynn
William Finnegan            Karl Flecker
Stephen Gittings            Rick Goldsmith
Ted Greenberg            David Hall
Shawn Halvorson        Jill Hannum
Judith Helfand            Adam Kaufman Hirsch
Lina Hoshino            Deborah Hoffmann
John Hoskyns-Abrahall        Norris Hundley
Prashant Sham Jawalikar    Bill Jersey
Ann Johnston            Ursula Jones
Hiroshi Kanno            Jane Kelly
Petra Kelly                Shirley Kessler
Jim King                Ambuj Kishore
Indu Krishnan            Mohan Kumar
Matthew Lasar            Jacques Leslie
David Lindsay            Orlando Lobosco
Susan Loyko            Bonnie Lynn-Sherow
Mark Madison            Juliette Majot
Ron May                Susan Mays
Patrick McCully            Gary Meyer
Char Miller                Gary Miller
Anuradha Mittal            Tara Bagh Mohulpadar
Richard Briggs Mokolo        Deborah Moore
John Morearty            Steve Most
David Murdock            Anil Naidoo
Sandi Norman            Marcela Olivera
Stephen Ollson            Mark Page
Diane Park                Joyojeet Pal
Anita Patel                Sandaya Patnayak
Fran Peavey            Janis Plotkin
Marty Pottenger            Nancy Price
Mark Rand                Frances Reid
Paul Richards            Ines Rieder
Peter Riggs            Matt Robinson
Christina Roessler        Jeffrey Rothfeder
Joe Santella            Hans Schoepflin
Bari Scott                Jim Shultz
Vandana Shiva            Ashwini Sinha
Gail Silva                Robert Stumberg
Rick Tejada-Flores        Ellen Thatcher
Barry & Marjorie Traub    J    anet Traub
Malavika Vartak            Jane Walter
Sharon Wood            Michael Yoshida

Association for India’s Development
Bechtel Corporation
Berkeley City Club
Centre for Science and Environment
Citizens Network on Essential Services
Funders Network on Trade & Globalization
International Rivers Network
National Association of Water Companies
Oxfam, India
Port of Stockton
Public Citizen
Public Services International
Space Imaging
State of the World Forum
Stockton Municipal Utilities Department
Tarun Bharat Sangh
Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism
The Westin Miyako, Kyoto
The World Bank

© Snitow-Kaufman Productions, 2004


Main credits

Snitow, Alan (film producer)
Snitow, Alan (film director)
Kaufman, Deborah (film producer)
Kaufman, Deborah (film director)

Other credits

Editor, Kenji Yamamoto.

Distributor credits

Snitow-Kaufman Productions

Snitow-Kaufman Productions
Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman
Editor: Kenji Yamamoto
Music: Fred Frith

Docuseek2 subjects

Clean Water
Citizenship, Social Movements and Activism

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Asian Studies
Business Practices
Citizenship and Civics
Developing World
Human Rights
Latin American Studies
Natural Resources
Science, Technology, Society
Social Justice


water, water rights, privatiziation, globalization, commons, Bolivia, India, United States,"Thirst",Bullfrog Films

Welcome to Docuseek2!

Docuseek2 is a streaming platform of the best documentary and social issue films available for the higher education community.

Anyone may search for titles and find detailed information about the titles. To preview films or license them for streaming, you must register and login.

Currently, we support online registration for anyone affiliated with a higher education institution. Please inquire if you are with a K-12 district or school or with a public library.

Click the Close button to get started!