Troubled Waters

UCI’s Jay Famiglietti warns of global crisis in new documentary

UC Irvine professor Jay Famiglietti sits with his arms politely crossed, watching an irate Central Valley farmer wrest a microphone out of a conservationist’s hand. The two are dueling over the urgency of irrigation for 25 percent of America’s food supply versus cancelling crop production to save water.

A few minutes later, Famiglietti patiently tries to explain the scientific reality behind groundwater depletion and why proper resource management could help all sides. Suddenly, he abandons his professorial lingo and sighs: “We’re screwed.”

It’s just one of his memorable observations in the new documentary “Last Call at the Oasis,” which is being shown April 30 at the Newport Beach Film Festival, premieres May 4 in Los Angeles and other major markets, and will open May 11 at the Edwards University Town Center cinema in Irvine.

Directed by Academy Award winner Jessica Yu and produced by the same company that made “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Food, Inc.,” the movie chronicles dwindling water supplies worldwide, increasing pollution and potential solutions.

A professor of Earth system science and civil & environmental engineering who heads the University of California Center for Hydrologic Modeling, Famiglietti has collected global and regional data for years via a NASA satellite mission called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment). He provides much of the research underpinning one of the film’s main messages – that humans are using up water faster than it can be replenished.

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