Upstream, Downriver

"Upstream, Downriver" shares powerful stories of frontline community activists fighting for water equity, policy enforcement, and climate justice.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
32 mins
Closed captioning available Audio description available
Remote video URL


Upstream, Downriver takes viewers into the heart of the battle for water justice. Powerful stories with frontline community activists are interwoven with historical context about landmark regulations that significantly reduced water pollution in the U.S. but failed to serve disadvantaged communities that are hardest hit by today’s climate crisis.

Featured review

"Upstream, Downriver" is beautifully shot, the interviews are compelling and I personally thought that it hit the mark exactly where it was needed to get the message across.
Mike English
General Manager (retired), Maryland Public Television


Fresh water. Imagine a day without it. We use it to grow food, transport goods, generate power, support industry, and provide sanitation. Yet nearly half of U.S. streams, rivers and lakes are so polluted today that they are unsafe for fishing, swimming, aquatic life, and drinking water. In 1972, the Clean Water Act was enacted into law to provide basic human rights to clean water infrastructure. It accomplished significant milestones – no longer do we see raw sewage and toxic industrial waste openly pouring into our rivers. At least, not

everywhere. From coal sludge and toxic chemicals to open waste water, polluted water disproportionately affects disadvantaged communities. These laws are only as good as the EPA and state and local governments enforce them. And they are fifty years old. They do not address “forever” chemicals, micro-plastic pollution, and run-off from agribusiness pesticides, fertilizers, and feedlots. For the first time, many rivers and lakes are experiencing slimy green toxic algal blooms and major die-offs of marine life. . .food that sustains people and livelihoods. All these factors have a critical impact on our drinking water and the health of our watersheds. The climate crisis is rapidly making the situation worse.

Upstream, Downriver is a documentary film about community activists on the front lines fighting for water justice and equity. Their powerful stories are interwoven with historical context about the successes and failures of the Clean Water Act. The Act’s landmark regulations significantly reduced water pollution in America but did not serve many disadvantaged communities. Today, 2.2 million people in the U.S. still live without sewage infrastructure. From Lowndes County,Alabama to the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho, this documentary takes viewers on a journey of environmental justice and the battle for clean water for everyone.

Awards and Screenings

Kennedy Center River Run Festival
DC Environmental Film Festival
Annapolis Film Festival
Chesapeake Film Festival
Remi Winner WorldFest Houston International Film Festival
Best American Film Reale Film Festival BiMonthly Awards

Director Commentary

Upstream, Downriver is about building community around the key issue of making sure everyone has access to clean and healthy water. The stories are a model for how we can make our voices heard when we come together to help each other. Sharing our stories connects us and helps us build a network of diverse, activated, informed communities to tackle today’s urgent challenges. How urgent? The climate crisis is intensifying waste water overflow, pollution run-off, toxic algal blooms, water scarcity, and causing devastating health issues, particularly in vulnerable communities. I made this film to inspire audiences to work together to take action and find solutions. Because together, we're better.

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Audio Description
  • Closed Captioning
  • Director's Commentary
  • DVD Extras
  • Subtitles

Film/Audio Languages

  • English
  • Spanish

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English
  • Spanish

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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