Scaling “The Great Divide” — a movie review

Havey Productions’ documentary comes at a critical time for Denver and the West.

August 28, 2015 | By: Jimmy Luthye
The Great Divide promotional image
“The Great Divide” premiers on television Monday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. on KTVD-TV (Channel 20) in Denver.

It looks like Denver is kind of a big deal now, huh?

Recent lists (here and here and here) have positioned our dusty old mining town as one of the best places to live, work and drink tasty tap water in the country.

Although, this isn’t exactly a recent development.

From our first days in 1858 during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, to our rapid expansion after World War II, and our quick recovery following the 2008 recession, Denver keeps growing stronger and more appealing to the masses. And it’s only going to continue, with Colorado’s population projected to double by 2050.

But there would be no hip restaurants, no Broncos games on a sunny Sunday afternoon, no Casa Bonita (thank you, Lakewood!), and no bounty of microbreweries if it wasn’t for our founding pioneers who came here in search of gold, only to realize they would need a lot more than that to survive.

Namely, water.

Havey Productions’ gripping documentary, “The Great Divide,” does a masterful job balancing different sides of a very complex subject, telling a comprehensive story about Colorado’s water past, present and future. From the history, to the cultural influence, to the legal battles over water rights, this film hits it all with precision and graceful neutrality.

Jim Havey, director, filming Cheesman Reservoir
Jim Havey, director and producer of “The Great Divide,” takes footage at Cheesman Dam.

And a story about the history of water in Colorado wouldn’t be complete without also telling the story of Denver Water, the largest water provider in the state. It’s a tale riddled with innovation, remarkable engineering feats, and certainly some controversy.

The film doesn’t sugarcoat tough issues. And, as a brand-new member of the Denver Water team, it was fascinating to learn so much about such a complicated topic in just 90 minutes.

It does an outstanding job of going beyond finger-pointing and side-taking to shed light into the conflicts of the past and the progress all parties are making toward collaborative solutions.

You could say we’re crossing “the great divide,” working together now more than ever. And, particularly with efforts such as the Colorado Water Plan leading the way, our uncertain future can still be bright — as long as everyone does their part.

The film, which premiers on television Monday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m., on KTVD-TV (Channel 20) in Denver, is a must-watch for everyone. Seriously. Gather the people around you, put down your cell phones, and settle in with some popcorn.

Why? The first step to meeting the water challenges we face is education, which is exactly what you’ll get from this documentary.

Factors such as wildly unpredictable climate change, overwhelming population growth and the drought-ravaged Colorado River all add up to a very uncertain water future for our city, state and region.

As Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO, states in the film, “If we grow the next 5 million people in Colorado the way we grew the last 5 million people, that may not be a sustainable model.”

Great Divide film screening at DU
The Aug. 6 premier of “The Great Divide” at University of Denver’s Neumann Center. Photo credit: Havey Productions.

So what role can you play? For starters, make sure you watch this film, and encourage others to do the same. If you can’t watch it Aug. 31, here are some other ways you can check it out:

  • The Great Divide 10-city tour is ongoing. Click here for tour dates.
  • The film is heading to all Colorado public school libraries.
  • Click here to request a private screening for your community, group or organization.
  • It will also likely be appearing on local and regional PBS affiliates soon.


As the film pointedly reminds us, “Clean water running wildly from city faucets is one of the great achievements of civilization.”

We can’t afford to take this for granted — particularly here in the dry, unpredictable, wild, Wild West.

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