Brave blue world - Racing to solve our water crisis


Brave Blue World - Racing to solve our water crisis, addresses a multitude of issues facing our society today with regard to one of our most precious resources, water. The documentary adopts a solution-driven approach. The viewers are first provided with a broad overview of the importance of water and how its absence could and will impact our society. The introduction is very brief and the documentary moves quickly to giving us specific examples of solutions that different geographic regions and companies came up with to tackle a specific issue. The film crew looked high and low travelling the world to look at the initiatives taken along and the innovations people came up with (commonsensemedia). Matt Damon and Jaden Smith, amongst other high profile and influential individuals, have participated in showing us that the water crisis is solvable as can be understood from the following quote “We envision a day when everybody has access to clean water and sanitation and we envision that in our lifetime” (Matt Damon, Actor and Co-Founder, 2020). Jaden Smith exemplifies this with a ground breaking yet simple concept of “The Water Box”; a box which filters water and delivers 10 gallons (37,8 litres) of clean water every 60 seconds for free. This concept was developed in Flint, Michigan after the municipal water system was contaminated with lead. It provided water to people who could not afford it or did not have access to it. Following the success of the programme, it has been implemented in other cities such as Los Angeles. Such an initiative highlights that the seemingly complex issue of a lack of access to clean water and the myriad of social and health consequences attached to it can be addressed by innovation, drive and a willingness to address problems ignored by many.

The multiple case studies presented in the documentary firstly show us the importance of dealing with water issues locally by adopting an adaptive, bottom-up approach and, secondly, that polluters have the responsibility to fix the problem they are causing. The scientific literature on water governance confirms and encourages the adoption of local cooperative partnerships (Ostrom, 1990; Lubell, Schneider, Scholz & Mete, 2002). Resource users, who are impacted by operational rules should participate in modifying those rules (Ostrom, 1990; Dell Angelo, 2016).

Regarding polluting industries, a couple of successful examples are provided in the documentary. In India for example, where the textile industry is prominent, it often occurs that waste water is being released into local rivers, alongside bleach and other pollutants, contaminating water sources. In South India, a textile company took it into its own hands to treat discharge water in a plant, using membranes. From that treatment, the salt extracted is reused in the factory and 90% of the water is being recycled, which results in a more responsible and environment friendly industry.

Overall, this is a positive and inspirational documentary. It is solution-driven and provides the viewers with practical answers supported by real world experience. The film is informative and addresses several aspects of the water crisis such as access to drinking water, sanitation, pollution, droughts, etc. with (a) good practice example(s) for each issue. As stated on Commonsensemedia, the documentary displays “A broad cross section of communities, ethnicities, and scales (...) which makes it relatable and universal”.

Moreover, the documentary raises public awareness about water related situations. This is further reinforced by the participation of influential and well known public figures who are able to convey the seriousness along with the severity of water challenges faced by our planet today. The idea of dealing with water issues locally sheds light on the responsibility and power that each of us have in making a change in our water usage. Furthermore, it demonstrates through practical examples how people can act and, if they are not concerned by the issue themselves, how they can help those communities in need. It gives concrete recommendations each of us can take on board and deploy through our own behaviour.

Examples of this include being more mindful of our own water use, supporting companies which employ methods which contribute positively to water management along with how we as individuals can pressure local governments to take positive action. It also shows that the water crisis is not imminent but has in fact already begun. The documentary leaves the viewers with a feeling of urgency to make a change for good.

The downside of the documentary is that it remains quite superficial. Indeed, although a lot of insightful projects are demonstrated, viewers are pulled from one example to the other without being given much contextual information about the issue and insight about the longer term impacts of the projects on local communities. The examples enumerated are presented a little randomly and the relevance or logic of the different examples is not very clear, other than the fact that they are all locally based solutions. It would have been more pleasant to watch if the examples followed each other based on a logical and coherent structure, for example starting with drinking water and ending with industrial water. The film is also quite typical of American movies: it distils a feel-good list of solution to be taken chiefly at the individual (or community) level but the reader may doubt that these 'many 1%' add up to a solution to the global crisis and its intractable drivers. By focusing on individual 'adaptation' the documentary also fails to address the collective and political dimensions, responsibilities and answers that might be more relevant.

(with contributions from Shannen Bont, Justine Lambert, Julie Markerink, Amsterdam Free University)


Damon, M. (2020). Retrieved January 17, 2021, from

Dell’Angelo, J., McCord, P., Gower, D., Carpenter, S., Caylor, K. & Evans, T. (2016). Community-based water governance on Mount Kenya: An assessment based on Ostrom’s design principles of natural resource management. In press at Mountain Research and Development: 102-114.

Halstead, K. (2020, October 27). Brave Blue World - Movie Review. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from

Lubell, M., Schneider M., Scholz, J. T., & Mete, M. (2002). Watershed partnerships and the emergence of collective action institutions. American Journal of Political Science, 46(1), 148-163.

McCord, P., Dell’Angelo, J., Baldwin, E., & Evans, T. (2017). Polycentric transformation in Kenyan water governance: A dynamic analysis of institutional and social-ecological change. Policy Studies Journal, 45(4), 633-658.

Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

The Water Box. (n.d.) Retrieved January 17, 2021, from water-box

Wolf, A. T. (2007). Shared waters: conflict and cooperation. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 32, 241-269.


Additional Info

  • Director: Tim Neeves
  • Producer: -
  • Language: English
  • Year: 2020
  • Duration (min): 50
  • Theme: Water supply, Domestic water, Water quality, pollution, Water and health, Water and community
  • Access: Free
  • Country: Global, USA
  • Technical quality (star): Technical quality (star)
  • Academic interest (star): Academic interest (star)
  • Societal interest (star): Societal interest (star)
  • Technical quality: 4
  • Academic quality: 3
  • Social interest: 4