Colorado water history to get its closeup in The Great Divide

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In the devastating aftermath of our recent floods, it's easy to forget that water has typically been a scarce resource in Colorado, battled over by competing interests, even as its rivers feed into eighteen states, from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi. But The Great Divide, a recently announced documentary film project, promises to be a revealing journey through the state's water heritage and its role in supplying the headwaters for much of the West.

Expect some spectacular aerial footage, lively storytelling -- and water, water everywhere.

"We try to find an interesting historical thread," says Jim Havey, the project's director, "and there's nothing that tells the story of Colorado better than water."

Havey started Havey Productions, a Denver-based documentary house, more than thirty years ago. The company has produced a string of striking, informative films about Colfax Avenue, Union Station, and other historical subjects that have aired on local public television or in schools and libraries. But with sponsorship by Colorado Humanities (and other fundraising still underway), Havey is shooting to draw a national audience for The Great Divide, figuring that the history of Colorado's waterways -- and sharp discussion of different approaches to conserving and exploiting the resource, from the ancient pueblos to the acequias of the San Luis Valley to the big dam battles of the twentieth century -- comprises an important chapter in the development of the West.

Havey's films aren't politically charged works of activism, so don't expect a lot of tirades about the politics and injustices of water law. But do anticipate a well-informed group of talking heads, such as the University of Colorado's Patricia Limerick and Colorado Supreme Court justice Gregg Hobbs, discussing the turning points in the state's water development and their impact. "We've got a really stellar lineup of experts," Havey says.

Agriculture, recreation, development and conservation interests will all get their say, with particular attention to some of the critical moments, such as the nixing of the Two Forks project and the decision to forego the proposed water diversion in northwest Colorado's Echo Park in favor of Glen Canyon Dam, that have shaped the state's much-engineered waters. Havey is shooting for a release date in the spring of 2015 -- which should give everyone a chance to dry out and get thirsty.

More from our Environment archive: "Photos: The 100 dirtiest power plants in America -- including two in Colorado."

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