The Future of Water

FutureCoverDropWater, and the fight to control it, has shaped human societies from the dawn of civilization to the present. In this series, Professor Terje Tvedt presents a comprehensive and coherent narrative of the role of water for the development of modern societies.

The Future of Water (DVD) US$ 69,00

Profits from the sale of films go to a fund for scholarships for young researchers who study the relationship between social development and water.


The series looks at how the struggle to control and use water will impact political power relations worldwide and influence war and peace and the destinies of countries and entire continents. This is especially the case in a period when fear of climatic changes has become a dominant worry worldwide, and when all societies have to prepare for changes in the water landscape.

Professor Tvedt takes the viewer on a global journey, presenting a comprehensive, coherent narrative of the role of water for the development of modern societies. By viewing global developments through the prism of water, it crystallizes an unusual and exciting perspective on the future of humanity and the water on which it depends.

The documentary has unique footage of projects and places never visited by film teams before. Interviews with statesmen, experts, and ordinary people affected by water-issues provide an understanding of how huge projects and controversial plans are intended to save cities, countries and continents, but also of how the larger picture will impact ordinary citizens.

The host of the series, Professor Dr Terje Tvedt, is a true water-man. He has studied the role of water in history and development for years and has published extensively on water issues.

Produced by Panopticon AS in cooperation with the University of Bergen.


Category: Documentary, 2008
Duration: 3 x 52 min.
Soundtrack and subtitles: English, Norwegian

Episode 1: Waterlords
In the future, control over water will be more and more important as a means of political power. In this perspective the sheiks of tomorrow will be the “water-sheiks”. Episode 1 brings the viewer to several of these political hotspots: the great rivers of Asia and the water tower that is their source, the Himalayas.

We also travel to Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, conveying what the countries leaders’ leaders believe the future will bring. The future of the Horn of Africa and the Middle East is closely linked th the destiny of the River Nile.

National unity will come under pressure in many countries where water is unevenly distributed, such as in Spain. There is enough water for everyone, but the question is: who should pay for it, how much, and to whom?

For the first time in history, a majority of the world’s population lives in the cities. Supplying these cities with the water they need will be a tremendous task, causing various social conflicts. One place where the struggle over water has led to riots is in Johannesburg, South Africa. This episode brings the viewer to the middle of the dire situation in the townships.

Episode 2: New uncertainties
The human race achieved its dominant position over all other species in a period characterised by unusually stable climatic conditions. But are these ideal conditions that have lasted for more than 10 000 years, about to come to an end? This episode argues that today, in this age of climatic uncertainty, the precarious future of the water landscape will profoundly influence political life, having enormous consequences on our societies.

Are we entering a century of drought or a century of rain and floods? Will sea level rise, and by how much? No one holds the answers to these complex questions.

We travel to Mali, Tibet, The Netherlands, Greenland, Venice, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and to Mexico, to meet political leaders, scientists and affected citizens. Uncertainty about tomorrow’s water landscape will impact international relations and migration pattern, and might even urge people to question the legitimacy of democracy. Water is of utmost importance to all societies. But will those who are given the authority to predict the future water cycles have an influence on how people and societies prepare for and tackle the insecurity of the future?

Episode 3: Water age
The face of the world will be radically changed by water in the coming decades. Regional water crisis are looming in many places, threatening the very fabric of societies. But new technologies provide enormous opportunities for altering geography. Water will be transported over large distances – from where there is abundance to where there is sacristy. In the future we will also see water tapped from underground aquifers, deep beneath the surface of the earth and the seabed.

In China we are observing the magnificent growth which is transforming the power relations of the world. Yet, China’s future – and the future of the world – is dependent on moving massive amounts of water over enormous distances. According to the Chinese government, this is the only way to solve what they consider one of China’s most pressing problems: the water crisis and the uneven distribution of water.

In Egypt they are creating a new, artificial valley in the Sahara by the monumental pumping and diversion of Nile River water. Egyptian leaders are bent on transforming one of the hottest deserts in the world into cultivated land cities.

Russia has revived and old plan for controlling water-access to Central Asia. Russian leaders seek to redirect the Siberian rivers flowing towards the Barents Sea to the dry plateau of Central Asia, possibly to the rescue of the drying Aral Sea.

In Florida, USA, they are turning salt water into freshwater on a large scale. And in Iceland, they have declared it necessary to bid farewell to the fossil fuel age and enter the hydro-age.

The question that is stirring in the deep is: How will these projects impact the future political development s and to what extent will they increase the vulnerability of our societies in the long run?