about the project


Where There Once Was Water is an independent feature length documentary film exploring California's current water crisis and discussing solutions for a more sustainable future.

Director Brittany App sets out to document the West Coast’s vanishing water supply, and ends up unfolding a California Water Story more complex than she could have ever imagined. She interviews experts about the problems with California’s current water landscape and potential solutions for a sustainable water future for us all. She shares these ideas in a digestible and thoughtful way that calls each and every one of us to action.

Where There Once Was Water is currently in production. Filming will continue throughout April of 2017, with sights set on the 2018 Film Festival Circuit.


A note from the filmmaker...


California is amidst it’s worst drought in recorded history, our climate is warming, and our global population is climbing towards 7.4 billion people. Our relationships with water must change.

Globally, Americans are the greediest of water guzzlers. On average we each use 100 gallons of water a day in our home. Add on the effects of the Standard American Diet, and between the water we see, and the water we don’t, each of us is responsible for consuming upwards of thousands of gallons of water per day in the United States.  

To support this behavior, particularly in hard hit areas of extended drought like we see in California, we are over-pumping ancient underground aquifers faster than nature can ever dream of replenishing them - so fast that our ground is actually sinking, and fast. Our infrastructure is outdated, our behavior is unacceptable, and our water supply is limited.

Water is life - and it is our one common denominator. Water scarcity is an issue that we will eventually face on every continent. This film will explore California’s water woes, alongside ideas and solutions for interacting with water in new ways, and will discuss the behavioral and structural changes needed on all levels.

California grows almost 50% all the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States - as well as being the leading producer of dairy, grapes and almonds, but not without a price. 80% of the state’s water goes towards this effort. We must address the manner in which we are growing our food. We must learn to do more with less. We must learn to rebuild the soil. This film will discuss successful & sustainable farming practices, as well as new technologies in irrigation and crop science.

This topic is dear to my heart. In 2010 I pedaled a bicycle from San Diego, California to St. Augustine, Florida to raise $15,000 for WaterAid, an international non-profit that works to provide access to clean water and effective sanitation in Africa & Asia.

In 2013 I began photographing the effects of the drought on my home state of California through a personal photography project which has since been featured by The Sierra Club, on Fox News, KCOY, and NBC, in Cal Poly Magazine, and on the cover of The Tribune and Information Press. I am also the creator of “The Five Gallon Challenge”, a popular youtube video that called on participants to survive on only 5 gallons of water for a full day. 

Inspiring people to respect and appreciate our most precious and sacred resource is what beats the drum of my heart.  Through this film, I will be a voice for water. I will bring together real life stories and conversations around this complex issue, and I will present the facts in a digestible way that aims to inspire each and every one of us to action.

They say that you don’t know the value of water until the well runs dry.  My hope is that we are wiser than that.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  Sincerely, Brittany Anzel App