Film details

(2010, 1 x 80 minutes / 1 x 60 minutes)
Produced by LizMars Productions.
Commissioned by TVO for The View From HereProduced with the participation of Knowledge Network, the Canada Media Fund, the Canwest Shaw Media Fund, Ontario Arts Council, and the Rogers Documentary Fund. Distribution: Kinosmith. BullFrog Films. McNabb and Connolly. Acquisition: Canada’s documentary channel.

Is water a commercial good like Coca-Cola,
or a human right like air?

Featuring best-selling author, activist and public figure Maude Barlow and her crusade to have water declared a human right, protected from privatization, WATER ON THE TABLE explores Canada’s relationship to its freshwater, arguably its most precious natural resource. The film shadows Barlow over the course of a year as she leads an unrelenting schedule as the U.N. Senior Advisor on Water to Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations.

Written & Directed by Liz Marshall
Produced by Liz Marshall
Co-Produced by Susan McGrath

Edited by Jeremy Munce 
Cinematography by Steve Cosens
Additional Cinematography by Liz Marshall, John Price 

Music Score by Jennifer Moore & Mark Shannon 
Supervising Sound Editor  Garrett Kerr
Supervising Re-Recording Mixer  Daniel Pellerin
Location Sound Recordist  Jason Milligan

Director's Statement

Every so often an idea sticks and won’t go away. It then requires dogged determination to usher it into the world. Water On The Table is an example of such a film that needed to be made, no matter what. It began in 2003 when I read Blue Gold, Maude Barlow’s first book about the global water crisis, I was deeply inspired by her vision and commitment to “water justice”. Fast forward to 2007 when I set forth (tenaciously) to raise funds for an epic film concept that would: a) intimately feature Maude’s crusade to have water declared a human right, b) explore Canada’s water from both a celebratory and political perspective, c) present strong opposing views from experts in Canada and the U. S.

Not an easy film to pitch or to fund – especially during a time when the film and television industry was experiencing a wave of ‘water fatigue’. But I persisted and support started to trickle through; a cascading effect that eventually made it possible to move ahead, and right at the time when Maude Barlow was to become the Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the U. N. General Assembly! This powerful storyline bookends the film.

So, with the help of a stellar team of filmmakers Water On The Table was realized, and was born into the world early in 2010. My hope is that it touches hearts and minds and significantly contributes to the growing movement to have water declared a human right.

–Liz Marshall, Director, Producer, Writer 


Water On The Table features Maude Barlow, who is considered an “international water-warrior” for her crusade to have water declared a human right. ”Water must be declared a public trust and a human right that belongs to the people, the ecosystem and the future, and preserved for all time and practice in law. Clean water must be delivered as a public service, not a profitable commodity.”

The film intimately captures the public face of Maude Barlow as well as the unscripted woman behind the scenes. The camera shadows her life on the road in Canada and the United States over the course of a year as she leads an unrelenting schedule. From 2008 – 2009 Barlow served as the U.N. Senior Advisor on Water to Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations.

More than a portrait of an activist, Water On The Table presents several dramatic opposing arguments. Barlow’s critics are policy and economic experts who argue that water is no different than any other resource, and that the best way to protect freshwater is to privatize it. It is proposed that Canada bulk-export its water to the United States in the face of an imminent water crisis.

Cinematic haiku-style images by Director of Photography Steve Cosens CSC, linger on watersheds, wetlands, rivers, estuaries, waterfalls and lakes, bridging themes and questions and elevating water beyond the political and into the realm of our own soul as a species on Earth.

While many embrace Barlow as a leader in the global water justice movement, her critics regard her as an alarmist. She became involved with the issue of Canada’s water in the mid-1980s, when it became clear that it was to be included as a tradable good in the Canada -US Free Trade Agreement. She tried very hard to get it removed, then stayed involved in the fight for Canada’s water when it was included in NAFTA as not only a good, but also as an investment. Water has since defined her.

Archived Screenings


FEBRUARY 10TH – 11TH: 29 Festival international du film d’environment, Paris, France.
*MARCH 21ST: 9pm EST. TVO. This will air after “The Agenda with Steve Paikin”, which draws about 100,000 viewers.
*MARCH 28TH: 10:30pm EST. TVO.
*These screenings are part of TVOntario’s “Water Week”, an annual week long broadcast event that was launched alongside the World Premier of Water On The Table in 2010.
MARCH 22ND: 7pm EST. World Water Day as part of Ecologos Water Docs Program Opening Night. Toronto, with filmmaker Liz Marshall and Mark Calzavara of the Council of Canadians.
MARCH 22ND:  7pm EST. World Water Day as part of the MINT Film festival (Made IN Toronto) at the ROM. WOTT filmmaker Liz Marshall joins panel discussion later in the evening.
APRIL 20TH – 26TH: Hippodrome Cinema, Gainesville, FL. 4/20 Fri: 6:30. 4/21 Sat: 4:00. 4/22 Sun: 4:30. 4/23 Mon: 6:30. 4/25 Wed: 5:15. 4/26 Thu: 8:30.
APRIL 27TH: 9:30am. One Earth Film Festival, Illinois. River Forest Public Library.


JANUARY 20TH: 7:30 p.m. Myriad Centre for the Arts, Perth, ON.
JANUARY 21ST: 6:30 p.m. Lost Lake PassivHaus, Whistler, BC. Presented by Cinema Politica.
FEBRUARY 5TH: World Community Film Festival, 10am Courtnay, BC.
FEBRUARY 13TH: World Community Film Festival, 3:30pm Vancouver, BC.
FEBRUARY 17TH: Cinema Politica. 7pm, Maple Ridge Municipal Hall, BC.
FEBRUARY 22ND: 7p.m. Bard College, Preston Theatre, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Joined by Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch.
FEBRUARY 26TH: 5PM. Geography of Hope Film Festival “Women and Water” program. Point Reyes, California.
MARCH 1ST: 6:30PM. Film Society of Lincoln Center, NY. As part of Green Screens. Q&A with filmmaker Liz Marshall.
MARCH 4TH: Kingston Canadian Film Festival, ON
MARCH 10TH: 7pm. The inaugural MINT Film Festival. Toronto, ON.  Co-hosted by the Toronto Dollar, Council of Canadians, and the Polaris Institute of Canada. With guest speaker Derek Forgie. Q&A with filmmaker Liz Marshall.
APRIL 8TH: 7PM. The Canadian Museum of Nature. Ottawa, ON. Q&A with filmmaker Liz Marshall.
APRIL 22ND: 7:30PM. Cape Cod, Alchemy Farm, 237 Hatchville Road, East Falmouth. Part of the Cinema Politica Network.
CANADIAN MUSEUM TOUR: Sponsored by Planet in Focus: Yukon Beringia Centre, Whitehorse March 21-22, April 15-16. Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa April 5-8. Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax.
April 6, 20, 27 and May 4. New Brunswick Museum, St. John.
April 7, 9, 14, 21, 28, 30, May 5, 7. The Rooms, St. John’s Newfoundland April 26-May 1. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria April 15-17.
JULY 1ST – AUGUST 31ST: The feature length version of WATER ON THE TABLE airs, in the air, on Air Canada.



MARCH 24th, 28th: As part of TVO’s World Water Week, the broadcast hour version had its World Premiere as the marquee presentation.
APRIL 23rd: The feature length version had its Festival Premiere at the Projecting Change Environmental Film Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia.
JUNE 19th 20th, 24th: Theatrical Premiere the Mayfair Theatre Ottawa, Ontario. On the eve of the G8 Summit, in Huntsville at the Algonquin Theatre.
SEPTEMBER: Director Liz Marshall toured the film in British Columbia to the Kootenays, Kelowna, the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver and Vancouver Island. A total of 9 packed screenings. Post-screening panels with local water activists and environmental groups are informative and passionate.
SEPTEMBER 26TH: Calgary International Film Festival at The Plaza cinemas.
OCTOBER 10TH: US Premiere was at the Blue Planet Film Fest. 11:30pm. Santa Monica, CA.
OCTOBER 12th: Cinema Politica Presents the Quebec Premiere at Concordia University W/ Maude Barlow and filmmaker Liz Marshall.
OCTOBER 14th: Toronto Premiere is at the 11th Annual Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival, the Royal Ontario Museum. Co-presented by NOW Magazine. Maude Barlow and Liz Marshall in attendance for a post-screening discussion.
OCTOBER 17TH: * WOTT wins Planet in Focus 2010 Best Canadian Feature Film Award.
OCTOBER 16th & 17th: Toronto Theatrical run at the Royal Cinema.
OCTOBER 18th & 20th: Knowledge Network Broadcast BC Premiere.
OCTOBER 25TH & 26TH: Theatrical screenings at the Bytowne Cinema in Ottawa.
OCTOBER 28TH: The Landmark Paramount in Kamloops, British Columbia.
NOVEMBER 13TH: * WOTT is nominated at the Gemini Broadcast Gala for a Donald Brittain Award for best social political documentary.
NOVEMBER 30TH & DECEMBER 1ST: The Princess Theatre in Waterloo, Ontario. Director Liz Marshall in attendance on November 30th.
DECEMBER 2nd: Water On The Table screens at the 7th Annual Artivist Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood California on the Spielberg Screen.
DECEMBER 7TH: Water On The Table kicks off the inaugural Green Screen Film Series at Georgian College in the Rowntree Theatre, Barrie, Ontario. Liz Marshall in attendance for an in-depth Q+A joined by Mark Calzavara, the Council of Canadians Regional Organizer for Ontario. This event is attended by many of the Site 41 protesters.
DECEMBER 10TH: The 7th Annual Artivist Film Festival in New York at the Tribeca Cinemas.

The Right To Water

Some 884 million people are without access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation.  1.5 million children under five years old die each year as a result of water- and sanitation-related diseases.

For the first time the world votes on the human right to water. On July 28th, 2010 the UN voted to recognize the right to water and sanitation.

By a vote of 122 member states in favour, to none against, with 41 abstentions, the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on States and international organizations to provide financial resources, build capacity and transfer technology, particularly to developing countries, in scaling up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.

In Favour: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

Against: None.

Abstain: Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Greece, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Zambia.

A Brief History

In November 2002, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights affirmed that access to adequate amounts of clean water for personal and domestic uses is a fundamental human right of all people: “The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights.”While it is not legally binding on the 146 States that have ratified the International Covenant, it aims to assist and promote the implementation of the Covenant and does carry the weight and influence of “soft law”.

The Definition of Soft Law

Our international community does not have central law-making authority. Therefore, any new law designed with the intent to enforce global change must be created through consensual processes. New laws can be achieved by the signing of a declaration of principles, codes of practice, recommendations, guidelines, resolutions, or treaties – documents that are commonly referred to as “soft law”. Though “soft law” documents do not have legal status and thus cannot be named as legally binding, they do bear a heavy responsibility amongst the international community: there is an expectation that their provisions will be respected and upheld. An excellent example of a “soft law” document is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The Canadian government continues to refuse support of the human right to water, together with countries such as  the US, the UK  and Australia. Federal governments from the Chrétien/Martin Liberals to the Harper Conservatives have refused to designate water a human right. In May 2006, the United Nations’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued a statement that it “regretted” Canada’s continued position of opposition to the right to water and asked the country to “reconsider”. In that same year the European Parliament adopted a resolution acknowledging the right to water, and Great Britain reversed its previous opposition in response to a UN Human Development Report documenting the world water crisis.

International Progress

Throughout the world individual countries have taken steps to take back and secure their water rights and enshrine accessibility as a human right. The people of Uruguay became the first country to lead a plebiscite and referendum for a constitutional amendment, which they gained in 2004. Other countries at the forefront of the water justice movement include South Africa, Ecuador, Ethiopia, and Kenya, along with Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands. Nepal, Bolivia and Columbia and Mexico have also been moved by citizen efforts to take action to protect water as a human right.

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