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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"Water's journey"

Tonight's PBS special Water's Journey: The River Returns is a tale told in 3 dimensions: water, time and film by filmographer, spelunker and Floridian Jill Heinerth with her partner and film producer Wes Skiles which traces the journey of Florida's St. Johns River following upstream from its mouth above Jacksonville south to locate its hidden origins north of Lake Okeechobee. The film is beautifully filmed through underground springs to urban landscapes and emerges to open air as we travel above the river's course to get a sobering view of the intimacy we all share with our watery landscape.

Living in Florida or any land surrounded by water we often forget how much our lives are affected by the very water we take for granted. Oh, we opine and disclaim whenever an oil spill or some corporate polluter damages a stretch of beach or disturbs protected nesting grounds but all too often we ignore the more obvious signals that what we do and where we live has as much if not more impact on the natural course of water in our environment than it has on us.

The film's team takes us on a sometimes excruciatingly beautiful and at other times wretchedly ugly tour of this once pristine waterway. Enter the world of underground caverns and culverts, passing through urban decay and concrete channels that are a manmade solution to carrying the stream. Instead of arriving at a lake Victoria-like head waters of the great Nile, Heinerth and her fellow explorers stand behind the parking lot of a Wal-Mart and despair at the tangle of twisted, abandoned shopping carts and plastic debris that marks one of the well springs of the river and we begin to understand that we hold the fate these great healing water courses in our hands.

Check your local listings and by all means watch this important PBS documentary and when you are next outside doing yard work question what becomes of the debris and runoff that you contribute to the local system and where it travels.

For more information and resources regarding Florida water systems go to Florida EPA Education and Outreach.

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