Documentary details battle over water

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comAugust 16, 2013 

delta2

At the gate 7 along the Dela Mendota canal, water levels have dropped. On Thursday, June 2nd, 2007, the Sac-San Joaquin Delta water way was shut down at the Tracy Pump Plant in a attempt to save the endangered Delta smelt. Water from the delta travels through the central valley through the California Aquaduct and the Delta Mendota canal. Mooney reporting. (Bart Ah You / The Modesto Bee)

BART AH YOU — Merced Sun-Star

— A water rights documentary made on Merced County's West Side is set to play at UC Merced next week.

Filmmaker Juan Carlos Oseguera said "The Fight for Water," which plays Wednesday at UC Merced, has received more interest than he anticipated.

"I just made a movie that I thought would be local, but it has expanded to others," the 39-year-old Firebaugh resident said. "I think they are finding something that they can relate with."

The film circles around the 2009 march farmworkers staged on the West Side to draw attention to their struggle. They marched 50 miles over four days from Mendota to San Luis Reservoir.

About 200,000 people were affected, beginning in 2008, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put in place policies to restrict the water pumped into Central Valley farmland. The policies protected the endangered delta smelt, but made work scarce for migrant farmworkers.

Farmers and workers felt severe water cuts because of drought.

Oseguera said people around the world can relate to the day-to-day struggle farmworkers faced to feed their families.

"I think it's an important film that everybody needs to see," he said. "It's a historical lesson to be learned about a situation that shouldn't happen."

"The Fight for Water" debuted last August at Film Fest Twain Harte, and has since showed in festivals in Los Angeles, Bakersfield and Colusa, among other screenings.

The film has dates scheduled in Malaysia and the Czech Republic later this year. The issue of water rights has international appeal, Oseguera said.

"That's why I made the film," he said. "I wanted something everybody could relate with."

The UC Merced screening is sponsored by UC Merced, the Merced Irrigation District, California Farm Water Coalition, Merced County Farm Bureau and Yosemite Farm Credit.

A panel discussion featuring water rights stakeholders is planned after the showing.

The screening is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at UC Merced's Lakireddy Theater, 5200 N. Lake Road, in Building 102.

Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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