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Cadillac Desert: Water and the Transformation of Nature is a 1997 American four-part documentary series about water, money, politics, and the transformation of nature.[1] The film was directed by Jon Else and Linda Harrar.

Cadillac Desert
DVD/Video Cover
Directed byJon Else
Linda Harrar
Produced bySandra Itkoff
Written byJon Else
Sandra Postel
Marc Reisner
Narrated byAlfre Woodard
Music byMartin Bresnick
CinematographyHilyard John Brown
Michael Chin
Jon Else
Edited byRobert Dalva
Deborah Hoffmann
Glenn Hunsberger
Trans Pacific TV
Distributed byPBS
Release date
  • June 24, 1997 (1997-06-24) (United States)
Running time
270 minutes
CountryUnited States


The film chronicles the growth of a large community in the western American desert. It brought abundance and the legacy of risk it has created in the United States and abroad.

The first three episodes are based on Marc Reisner's book, Cadillac Desert (1986), that delves into the history of water use and misuse in the American West. It explores the triumph and disaster, heroism and intrigue, and the rivalries and bedfellows that dominate this little-known chapter of American history.

The final episode is drawn from Sandra Postel's book, Last Oasis, (1992) which examines the global impact of the technologies and policies that came out of America's manipulation of water, demonstrating how they have created the need for conservation methods that will protect Earth's water for the next century.

The parts of the documentary are entitled:

  • Water and the Transformation of Nature - Mulholland’s Dream (90 minutes)
  • Water and the Transformation of Nature - An American Nile (60 minutes)
  • Water and the Transformation of Nature - The Mercy of Nature (60 minutes)
  • Water and the Transformation of Nature - Last Oasis (60 minutes)


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