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Development   /  Bill Code

Up The Creek

Water is life. Increasingly, water is power. What can Australia teach the world?


Impact areas



  • DIRECTOR Bill Code

  • PRODUCER Cathy Rodda and Christian Pazzaglia



Water is life. Increasingly, water is power. Australia’s rivers, rural communities and many Indigenous groups’ way of life are under threat as climate change, a damaged political system, and greed threaten the collapse of a generations-deep way of life. But what if there were other ways?

This documentary follows a year in the life of three key stories across Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin; touching on issues affecting communities from California to Spain, India to South Africa.

We meet the young dairy farming family, a woman at its lead. The Barkindji people on the Darling River; that life-giving force to the Outback, and an environmental disaster in the making. And the ‘water bank’ team in Mildura working on a new model to ensure small-scale farmers can compete with the corporate players forcing the price of water out of reach.

With an engaging, informed host, we look at the challenges these communities face and why it matters to all of us: over-extraction of water, a changed and unpredictable climate, and the privatisation of water. Our host also lives rurally and has a keen eye for the change of the seasons, the climate, the local environment, and water. Over the course of a year (summer-summer) s/he checks in our protagonists, letting their narratives guide us. There is a personal journey for the host here, as well.

But weaved deftly into these stories from across the basin, we will also meet those scientists, farmers and policy-makers already making a difference. The film thus offers positive alternatives to the business-as-usual approach, using cutting-edge graphics to tell the story of one river system, along with a focus on humour and narrative. This film uses the stories of real people, and the change they are experiencing, to increase awareness of the factors at play in water policy and agriculture; the activity destroying ecosystems, livelihoods and ways of life.

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0% funded
  • $150,000.00

  • $0.00

  • June 2023

  • 0

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

The rivers of Australia’s interior feed the nation’s crops, as they do its unique wetlands, landscapes, and ways of life. But increasingly, they are running dry, killed by outdated agricultural practices, corporate greed and broken politics. Climate change is making rainfall unpredictable, and groundwater is being radically overexploited. Water is now a commodity to be bought and sold on share markets.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

This is a good-looking impact film. By entertaining, storytelling and informing, it aims to change the way people think about rivers and water, farming and the environment, and their relationship to them, in Australia and overseas. By reaching different sectors of society, this film aims to create change at the policy level .


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

We are seeking to raise awareness on the way communities live or die based on their access to water, the way this water does or does not reach them, and the way this is related to impact on the environment and riverine ecosystems. By raising awareness and focusing on impact and education, we hope to shift the debate in Australia and internationally - or at least, bring it out of the shadows - on what best practice for water use in dry landscapes really looks like.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

As this team has shown with The Lake of Scars documentary, partnering with a range of organisations at all levels of the decision-making process, in production as well as distribution, is key.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

They are assisting but not directing storyline narrative and interview choices, while helping us find the right funding options.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

Become politically engaged

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

When this film is helping to guide a mainstream discussion of suitable crop choices, sustainable river systems and sensible policy decisions, we will know impact is being made.