While Angelenos have become accustomed to taking shorter showers, limiting the amount of water used to irrigate their yards and forgoing home car washes, the city’s residents and those of surrounding communities have had it relatively easy compared with people living in other parts of the state. Particularly hard hit are the farming communities found throughout California’s Central Valley.
A case in point is the small agricultural town of Stratford, where years of drought are threatening the community’s very livelihood. That’s the subject of a new short (8:15) documentary called “When a Town Runs Dry,” by Los Angeles-based Hey Baby director Joris Debeij. In his film, Debeij follows three Stratford residents:
“A farmer who has had to sell land that his grandfather originally purchased; a high school football coach who grew up in the area during a time when children could run and play in the water; and a shopkeeper, an immigrant from Yemen who loves his adopted town, but is having difficulty making ends meet when his customers cannot afford to pay their tabs.”
Through restrained storytelling, Debeij deftly captures the desperation and despair that characterizes life in Stratford today. It’s a moving tribute to the strength of a community trying to hang onto a much-loved way of life. It’s also a reminder of the degree to which the nation’s ability to produce a wide range of agricultural products is tied to the vagaries of weather patterns and the impacts of global warming. While many of California’s farming communities are battling for their survival, the film reminds us that their fight is our fight – and that continued drought will affect our livelihoods as much as their own.