*Note: “Hydraloop collects, cleans and re-uses the water from showers, baths, washing machines, handbasins and air conditioning units. Hydraloop water is clean, clear, safe, and disinfected. It can be re-used for toilet flushing, washing machines, garden irrigation and topping up swimming pools.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “Water is not necessary for life, it is life.” This most basic of substances fills our bodies and grows our food; without it, there could be no life on Earth. And yet, in many parts of the world it is endangered, threatened by pollution and overuse.
A feature-length documentary called “Brave Blue World” hopes to draw attention to this issue and inform viewers of why water preservation efforts matter so much. It highlights the problems with shortages and contamination that plague many parts of the world, and some of the technological solutions addressing them. It boasts some big names, with Liam Neeson as narrator, and Matt Damon and Jaden Smith representing their own water-related organizations.
The film moves around the planet at a rapid pace, covering five continents in the span of an hour. It presents viewers with a mix of alarming facts and footage of water-scarce regions of the world, and solutions to the problem that range from technologically-advanced ones used in the International Space Station to a simple dehumidifier-type machine that pulls moisture from the air in rural Kenya to provide clean drinking water to children in schools.
The number of different solutions shown in the film can feel a bit overwhelming; fairly little time is spent on each one before it races on to the next, but in terms of providing an overview of what’s happening globally, it is still useful. Some of the most intriguing solutions include efforts by a Kenyan company called Sanivation to put toilets in private homes and then collect the fecal matter and transform into a charcoal alternative that burns longer and spares trees; an enterprise in Andalucia, Spain, that cultivates algae using wastewater and converts it to biogas to fuel cars; and a factory in southern India that now reuses over 90% of its textile processing water.
In the Netherlands there’s a push to install residential grey-water recycling systems, also known as the Hydraloop. Its creators say the goal is that, in 20 years’ time, no house is built without its own recycling unit. “There will be 8.5 billion people on this planet, and if only 5% of those recycle their water in-house, it will actually stop the growth of water uptake on this planet. That’s really the power of residential water recycling.”
The film highlights efforts made by cosmetics giant L’Oréal in its Mexico City factory to implement a Dry Factory standard that ensures all water required for an industrial process “is covered by the reuse of treated and recycled water.” This means that no new city water inputs are necessary, cutting down on water consumption dramatically.
Conspicuously absent from the film is any mention of the agriculture industry’s excessive water usage. This seems out of place, considering that meat production (and beef especially) is one of the biggest water wasters on the planet. Campaigns to reduce meat consumption for environmental reasons have been gaining traction in recent years and would have been a perfect fit for this film’s list of takeaway actions.
As mentioned before, the film’s approach is very much “water issues lite,” but there is a time and place for that. Its sweeping overview is well-suited to people unfamiliar with the problems, who are just starting to learn about them, such as middle or high school students. While not the deep dive one might hope for, “Brave Blue Planet” still has educational value and is worth watching just to learn about the broad range of innovative solutions people are working on.
“Brave Blue Planet” premiered in 2020 and is now streaming on Netflix.