Water Watchers: New TV series informing our community about water pollution
The Water Watchers Interview
Interview by Grace C. Visconti with Bruce Henning of Eagle’s Breath Entertainment Inc. ©2008
Background on Bruce Henning and Eagle’s Breath Entertainment Inc. :
Coaldale, Alberta Canada filmmaker Bruce Henning of Eagle’s Breath Entertainment Inc. (EBEI) is an evolution of Eagle’s Breath Entertainment and Henning Drilling Ltd., the family owned and operated 56 year drilling business founded by the late patriarch Eugene Edward Henning. The Henning family also had interest and ran a 26,000 acre ranch in the badlands of South Eastern Alberta for nearly 10 years which gave them hands on experience with the environment in many ways.
With 25 years of production experience, Henning has cultivated his skills with 40 career projects in diverse roles such as producer, director, screenwriter, freelance writer, camera operator, actor, novelist and gifted Zen photographer. As a third generation dowser and licensed driller, Henning has been involved in the drilling of 2,000 water, oil and gas wells with a stint in environmental drilling. This involvement gave him insight into the widespread depletion of natural resources; especially water, as depicted in his current ECO-DOC TV series in development entitled Water Watchers.
1. GCV: When did the concept for Water Watchers emerge? What is the story behind it?
BH:It emerged as a one off documentary called “You Can’t Drink the Oil.” It was an evolution of being prompted by the late, Andy Russell, environmentalist, conservationist, author, outfitter and a wildlife guide. He was also a filmmaker who shot the very first grizzly bear documentary called Bear Country. This is where his son Charlie participated as an internationally renown bear conservationist. He made his first appearance in the film but now has an international reputation. Andy more or less talked to me when I dowsed the water after their well went dry about 5 years ago and wound up finding 2 cross veins. I had another drilling company come in to drill it and got them water. This convinced Andy that I knew what I was doing when it came to water. Because of my water dowsing abilities as well as my practical knowledge of watersheds and drilling procedures, he suggested I do a documentary about water in Alberta. I started thinking about the project 5 years ago. My late father Eugene Henning was instrumental in pushing me about the issue. I began to realize that when water became more highlighted in the media, I had a unique experience other people could benefit from, especially with my knowledge of water dowsing and drilling for water as well as my knowledge of the oil and gas industry.
2. GCV: When did you start feeling an urgency to produce this ECO-DOC?
BH: What really tweaked it for me was when I did some environmental drilling. I began to see the damage that the oil patch had caused. What I saw was the very cavalier attitude by the industry about subsurface water as well as environmental surface water on the oil and gas leases. Even the oil contamination in the lease site was bad. It was full of oil and benzine. Fifty year-old lease sites were heavily contaminated with spillage from tankers, pump jack sites and leakage from subsurface lines that had not been properly maintained and there was no pressure testing. The oil just leaked into the environment which contaminated the water tables. When I was finished, there were over 40,000 lease sites in Alberta still to be reclaimed. These are ones that have been taken out of service. However, it does not reflect the present lease sites in production.
There have been approximately 600,000 oil and gas lease sites drilled in the province of Alberta. There are about 500,000 water wells drilled in the province of Alberta as well. The problem is the present Government of Alberta does not recognize the possibility of cross contamination of these drilling sites of subsurface water aquifers which are used in households and livestock agricultural operations. What has happened is that the Government of Alberta, Alberta Environment organization and the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, (PFRA) responsible for monitoring the subsurface water quality as well as a collective database for hydrogeological maps, has been shut down for the last the 20 years. Now there are only 214 wells that they monitor for subsurface water quality. This is down from over 2,000. Technically speaking, they should be monitoring all 500,000 water wells. This is a case of gross negligence on behalf of the Alberta Government in regards to the quality of the water for the citizens of Alberta. These shut downs have been labeled as budget cuts while our taxes are climbing. Where is the justice, agenda and social responsibility? It is the eminent domain of the citizens of Alberta who should have a say in the quality of their water.
3. GCV: What will this ECO-DOC cover and why do you see the need to be extensive in this presentation?
BH: Water Watchers will be a one hour weekly ECO-DOC, an educational platform, consisting of 13 episodes on 7 continents which will cover all aspects of water: scientific, aboriginal honoring, knowledge and spirituality regarding water; regional dynamics; policies; politics of water; use and misuse of conservation ie. the management of watersheds etc. This includes an investigation of both surface and subsurface aspects of oil and gas, mining, and technology.
Though I wish to be thorough with respect to investigating the water quality issues and the gross negligence applied to this very important issue, I am encountering a great echo of silence as a documentary filmmaker since no one from Alberta Environment or any government body is willing to comment on the monitoring or changes of the quality in the water for both surface and subsurface in Alberta. In light of the conspiracy of silence with the Government of Alberta, I had to go back to my family’s water well drilling logs some 50 years back where we have a database of about 2500 water well logs and to see if there was an original water quality test done on those wells. I am presently in the process of doing my own research to get the history of these wells and the present day water quality if possible. I want to see the changes in water quality since they were drilled and to also check if the oil and gas exploration has had an impact on the quality of water in the domestic water wells we have in our database.
4. GCV: You claim that “water is the new oil,” a commodity that is often taken for granted in Canada and the world. Is there anyone properly protecting our water supply? Can you extrapolate on this?
BH: To my knowledge, there are bodies of environmental groups who hired lawyers to address just this. They are not very forthcoming in their progress nor are they making much headway. Again, they are battling government and huge multinational corporations with energy exploration interests and agendas in regards to the environment and water quality issues. This in itself causes a conflict of interest for the general public since their health is at risk as well as the supply of good quality water. There are multinational corporations that are now trying to control the water and water aquifers all over the world, both surface and subsurface, by policy and laws as well as by land purchase. They want to make water a commodity and if that happens, water is no longer a human right. People will die. Most of the world will not be able to afford the price of water. When water becomes a commodity on the markets and with water rights compromised, it means that you can’t drill, sell or use their water without their approval. You will have to pay dearly to have good drinking water. Multinational corporations supply the chemicals to water treatment plants and they have been buying up water treatment plants all over the world. They are slowly buying water markets by purchasing the water treatment infrastructures in regional, national and soon on a global basis. They are gradually taking control of water and making it a commodity.
In Alberta, no energy exploration company has ever been held liable for violation of the Water Act in Alberta whereas water well drillers, farmers and ranchers are heavily regulated. We need to get energy exploration in Alberta and globally, to be more environmentally friendly and to abide by the Albera Water Act, where water has more stringent international water policies than what is in effect now. Their present status is archaic at best since they do not address the issues of modern day environmental concerns of quality and supply in any way, shape or form. They are 100 years behind. It is time to get in the game since we are faced with natural drought cycles that are cyclic which we cannot change. We must make the necessary changes to what we can alter before it is too late for the human herd. Believe me, we are not fear mongering. We have a water crisis that we must deal with now. We need to shift the mass consciousness to that effect as soon as possible.
5a. GCV: Though we can blame urbanization, industrialization, deforestation, over utilization of agriculture practices, energy exploration and climate change for collectively endangering our water supply, would you agree that “intention” is at the root of its global abuse especially from the private sector while the governments do little or nothing about it?
BH: In the province of Alberta, according to data and research provided by several research bodies, it takes about 100 years for the water to flow from the Continental Divide in the Alberta Rockies to the province of Saskatchewan (about 300 - 500 miles). Part of the reason we are seeing water wells going dry in the eastern and central part of Alberta is due to the almost 600,000 gas and oil wells cementing off water aquifers which stops the flow of water eastward. Here is the physics of it. They drill oil and gas wells. They don’t abide by the Alberta Water Act because when you drill, you are co-mingling different levels of aquifers right from the surface to the depth of the hole therefore changing the chemistry of all aquifers that are affected by the drilling process. An aquifer is an underground body of water. Water well drillers in the province of Alberta have been regulated to protect the water quality and the aquifers on the surface right to the target drilling aquifers. They do this by casing off or using what are called packers which stop the flow of water to other aquifers.
In Alberta, it takes 5,000 gallons of water to bring 1lb of beef to the marketplace. This means they need 5,000 gallons x 1200 lbs average of live weight of a cow and multiply that which gives you 6 million gallons of water needed in a 3 year life cycle before they are butchered. So that is 3.6 trillion gallons of water in a 3 year life cycle which translates to 1.2 trillion gallons per year to support the Alberta beef industry and its crops since they have to grow them locally. This is food acreage taken away from the direct supply of the human food chain to feed the population. Huge land mass and water is taken away which should be used for our food chain. Is this the best use of this land and water? Is this for our highest good as per the survival on this planet considering the present water crisis with almost 7 billion people on the planet? It is a moral choice just like we have chosen to grow wheat or corn for transportation purposes rather than feeding the planet. We are seriously out of balance morally where profit verses the basic needs to support life takes precedence. We have food and water shortages because we have a love affair with transportation and fossils fuels. We will not be able to drink the water or the oil for that matter. The fourth horseman referenced in the Bible reveals the pestilence in the bowels of the earth. Are we at this point now? Is our destiny already laid out or can we be more conscious now? The people have to decide but first they must be informed of what is going on.
Every year according to the Alberta Water Act, we are liable and responsible to pass forward 50% of the surface water from the Alberta Rockies to Saskatchewan from bodies of water that flow east of the Rockies. Approximately 60% of the water in Alberta flows to the North, 20% flows east and 20% flows south. In 2007, it was the first year we did not pass forward an estimate flow rate of 50% of the 20% in eastward flows of water to Saskatchewan. Certain researchers have revealed this to me as a filmmaker lately. Because the Saskatchewan stakeholders don’t demand nearly as much water as Alberta and because they have a lower population base, it may have drawn and could in the future bring the Alberta government into a place of liability due to the lack of transferring these resources. The reason this didn’t happen is because it wasn’t life threatening. What is going to happen in the future if water does get scarcer? Are we going to be held liable for not handing the water over according to the dictates of the Alberta Water Act or will the Alberta Water Act simply be torn up? Globally, others can learn from us here in Alberta with the presentation of important issues in this ECO-DOC series.
5b. GCV: How do you intend on changing the perception and direction that a wrong intention can manifest?
BH: By educating the public on drilling and energy exploration procedures while revealing the negative impact they have on the water chemistry, supply and preservation of source aquifer integrity. They negatively impact the drilling zone which includes hundreds of different kinds of chemicals, none of which you want to have in your breakfast cereal, so why would you want it or allow it to be in your water source? In 2005, the Pembina Institute wrote a research document on the co-mingling or polluting of water in Alberta of which I have a copy and it confirms everything I am saying. I have had meetings and conversations with Mary Griffith of the Pembina Institute where we both cross-referenced our information. I was taken very seriously because of my hands on drilling experience but that document has never become public knowledge. When it comes to water in Alberta, it seems as if government policy is out of site out of mind. Is silence still golden or is it lethal? Transparency is called for here.
5c. GCV: What will it take to turn this pending ecological disaster around for the sake of humanity?
BH:The trouble is, most of it is irreparable because how can we go down 600,000 wells, remove the cement and the pollutants? We don’t have the technology. There is not a technology that can re-animate subsurface aquifers and drilling zones to their original condition and chemistry. Now look at this on a global perspective. We are slowly committing environmental suicide which is endangering the whole quality of life for the human herd and for all creatures of this planet. Have no doubt that Mother Nature will find a way to reduce the population of the human herd just as it does in the animal kingdom with disease and pestilence.
6. GCV: What kind of funding is needed to produce this ECO-DOC?
BH: I am now in due process of attempting to finance the project. Eagle's Breath has invested over $250,000.00 in cash, resources and assets to shoot the trailer thus far, so we have a high level of commitment to the project. Though I am now in the process of getting funding for this High-Definition / crossover technology to a blue/ray broadcast quality ECO-DOC, the final cost will depend on other Executive Producers and their wages as well as crew skill levels. The best ones cost big bucks these days. As in the film and broadcast industry, we are experiencing another update in camera technology as blue/ray / film / HD crossover technologies are converging at this point in time. This new technology adds production costs to a project. The high cost of fuel for transportation is another cost that jumped nearly 40% in the last year which is a whole other documentary in itself.
7. GCV: When do you expect to start this production and approximately how long will it take?
BH: We’ve already shot the trailer for promotional purposes for marketing to broadcasters internationally. A project like this will take approximately one to two years to get it developed and financed. With the proper financing in place and development funds, shooting would take about 2 weeks per episode. Editing is included in this time frame. Each region in every continent has its own set of water issues to manage or abuse.
8. GCV: Will you be documenting the filming of it?
BH: If I have the funding, yes.
9. GCV: Do you foresee any difficulties in governments being transparent about this issue worldwide? Do you foresee them supporting it and if not why if it is such an urgent issue?
BH:Yes, because of resistance. There is no money in it. It is a complex issue because of environmental concerns as well as the fact that many multinational corporations are attempting to make water a commodity when we need it for our very survival. It replaces the moral value to that of a commodity which makes it a simple right of survival. By comparison, it brings into question the morality of growing wheat for gas in light of the current world food shortage. In essence, it challenges the availability of basic survival elements like food and water as a moral and human right. When it’s used as a commodity, only the wealthy will be able to afford it while the poor will do without.
Here’s another question. Is there a corporation working on the rights to air and breathing? If so, this shows that our morals and values are completely turned upside down in this global village. This leaves us with no regard for our neighbors or the well being of humanity in this global village. Is this leading to the depopulation of the planet with people not able to purchase these commodities which were once part of the human right code of ethics on this planet?
Another issue that I want to address is the invasion of Tibet by China. One of Tibet’s greatest natural resources is the glaciers which hold the life blood of the Earth for every human being; water. Maybe this is why China will never release Tibet because it will diminish the control of huge watersheds which the Chinese people really need. From this perspective, the invasion is considered an act of ECO-TERRORISM.
10. GCV: What can government, the private sector and people do to redirect this looming if not ever present ecological disaster? Have all three sectors done enough thus far?
BH: No one has done enough. Generationally we’ve messed it up and therefore we are karmically liable with Mother Earth to reclaim and restore it even though we don’t possess the technology at present to do so considering this fact. We have the opportunity to create a huge environmental economy with this in mind. The environment should be a growth industry in the consciousness of every person, business, corporation and government body to bring it back into balance.
11. GCV: Who would you consider the most important of these three sectors to start the process moving in the right direction?
BH: All three but it starts in the households.
12. GCV: How big of a production team do you need to produce this ECO-DOC?
BH: That would depend on location whether we are doing the shooting in Alberta, Toronto, USA, Mexico, and Africa or anywhere on the planet. It also depends on funding. How valuable is this education to the planet especially if it concerns our very existence? With education, we can change the government and the private sectors by changing policy and laws. When people become educated about the water quality issues worldwide, governments and the private sector will have no choice but to abide by the public will. Let’s manifest the winds of change to instigate new found honor and respect for the planet and its ecosystems through policy and law.
13. GCV: Do you foresee any political ramifications or resistance from the private sector during the investigation process? If so, how do you intend to get around this as a filmmaker?
BH: Well I have already encountered resistance and I have had to go back and will continue to revisit them. The issues are a whitewash agenda as well as the tax write-offs which usually do not benefit or change water quality or supply issues to date. The government and multinational corporations impacting the environment positively is an illusion and there is a tax write-off which the public pays for. What they do is spend millions of dollars reclaiming the leased land soil but nothing changes in the subsurface. Cement, steel, chemicals down below in the wells are still polluting and damaging subsurface aquifers. The co-mingling damage to the aquifers can never be restored. They can fix what is on the surface to a degree but they can never fix what is below the surface in nearly 600,000 oil and gas wells in Alberta alone that has negatively impacted water quality and supply.
14. GCV: How do you see this ECO-DOC and film in general, bridging the gap between the mainstream media and the Internet while disseminating very important messages to the masses?
BH: The major broadcasters probably won’t pick it up due to corporate commercial conflict of interest, advertising dollars and the financial backing of the oil industry that shuts independent filmmakers with crucial programming out of the mainstream marketplace.
15. GCV: The inner and outer synergy of life is a common theme that flows through your work with “connection” being the key word here, sharing stories, concepts and issues about our personal and collective survival but it appears that you are more than your average filmmaker. Your intention is to enlighten and reach the mass consciousness about issues that would not normally come to light. As a filmmaker, what are your short-term and long-term goals with respect to reaching the mass consciousness about issues that would not normally come to light?
BH:The responsibility is about changing the consciousness of the planet to a place where they honor basic elements that our tribal elders once maintained. One must realize that back in our genelogy we all had tribal roots at some point. It should be common sense or second nature to understand the honoring process as we have lived by it for generations upon generations. And it is only the generations of the industrialized culture that have chosen not to honor it but instead they have chosen to capitalize on raping the planet without forethought for the next generation. This is the reason why we are in such a crisis because we are dishonoring the next generation in the now.
16. GCV: How can the public better equip themselves with respect to unknowingly consuming contaminated ground water?
BH: Again, the answer is found in education, awareness, and a shift in consciousness as well as realizing that water is the lifeblood of the planet and we will die without water fit for human consumption in adequate supply to suit the population base. Also, they can equip themselves by having environmentally friendly and adequate filtration systems over and above tap water which has many chemicals that cannot be assimilated and metabolized by the body. This negatively impacts our immune systems by killing the friendly bacteria in our stomach lining that keeps our immune systems strong and free of allergies and disease. Realize that we are only as healthy as the quality of water we consume. Therefore, the urgency of this issue is at hand and is probably the most crucial one facing mankind today. If a group wanted to control the population of the earth they can do it by controlling the water quality and supply. This involves multi-dimensional processes and consequences and it should not be up for debate at this time. It is an observation that we cannot afford to overlook.
17. GCV: What measures do all three factions (government, private sector, public) have to take in order to facilitate this serious water issue to turn it around?
BH: It would have to be a complete and revolutionary shift in consciousness and practice to become one with the planet and recognize that our imbalance has caused the ecosystems to become imbalanced.
18. GCV: As a filmmaker, what do you hope to achieve in producing this extensive project and therefore building a platform for conscious change that will ensure the availability of high quality water for future generations?
BH: I am using the education process to shift the consciousness that could eventually lead to altering the environment and the way that we abuse it now to a more conscious responsible approach so we can find the win/win solution for all creatures on this planet.
19. GCV: You state, “On a global perspective, there is no question that oil and gas and mining exploration negatively impacts the drinking water.” Do you have a message to impart to the private sector with respect to safer alternatives?
BH: If we don’t get on board with making policy changes to regulate policy and produce high standards of water that is fit for human consumption or regulate watersheds to insure adequate supply, the human herd without water will not survive. It will take diligent and responsible policy changes to bring this to fruition but it starts with a whole consciousness.
20. GCV: How can governments worldwide and the public also participate in creating these safer alternatives?
BH: By listening to the people who want to make conscious changes to the environment and to have government policies support the will of the people rather than large corporations. This in itself is an important and only one step to shift the consciousness. It will be a giant leap for mankind's consciousness that could bring us back into balance with the earth. It will take a miracle and only focused change will save us.
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