The Water Brothers is a documentary series following brothers, Alex and Tyler Mifflin, as they explore the world and uncover the most important water stories of our time. Alex and Tyler are passionate about the topic of water conservation and use their respective education in film and environmental studies to create this series. Alex is the lead researcher, co-writer and co-host and Tyler is the co-host, director, videographer and co-producer.
Why did you choose to focus on water as a topic?
Alex: Tyler and I have always had passion about environmental issues and foresaw ourselves making documentaries about environmental issues, wildlife, or natural history films. Anything to engage people, and make them aware of problems facing the natural world, our environment, and society.
We saw that all the major environmental challenges in the world today are connected to water whether it’s freshwater or the ocean. Through the lens of water, one could better understand these complex connections between environmental challenges and people. Water connects us to all the living things on earth, thus connecting us to all the big environmental challenges which in one way or the other are about how we are managing and protecting water resources.
Tyler: Water is not just the environment, it’s our economy and society. Everything we eat, buy and consume requires water in some aspect. Water is the underlying theme and it allows us to talk about so many other issues that we are passionate about.
It is often seen that the Water Brothers pitch to a young demographic. Why and how important is it for you to get this age group involved in this issue?
Alex: Reaching youth is obviously incredibly important because unfortunately it’s our generation and subsequent generations that are inheriting serious problems with water on this planet. Our planet is only going to become more crowded and through our lifetime, water is only going to become more scarce and climate more extreme and variable. Thus, it’s important to get youth aware, educated, engaged, and passionate about these issues because these are issues that are going to dominate a lot of their lifetime.
We work a lot on appealing to young people and making sure our episodes can reach classrooms, be used by teachers, used by professors at places like Ryerson but we don’t make our episodes specific to any one age group. We want to appeal to everyone because we need everyone to be aware and engaged. It’s not only about the youth, they are definitely important, but it is really about everyone.
What is your favourite part about filming the Water Brothers series?
Tyler: We love many things about filming the series. Traveling to about 30 countries over the last 5 years of filming the show has been an eye opening experience for us. We have been exposed to so many scientists, organizations, NGOs, communities, cultures, and amazing food that have broadened our horizons.
Along with that, experiencing many of the issues firsthand, seeing how water issues impact people and seeing positive solutions to combat the challenges is really rewarding. Then, trying to communicate these stories to a wide audience, though challenging, is extremely gratifying. Water connects every little thing and being able to make the connections between the issues is such a rewarding experience.
Is there a specific season or episode that is your favourite? Why?
Alex: No, since we cover such a diverse range of subjects, it would be a shame to choose one over the other. Each of them cover equally important issues.
One of our favourites to film were the two episodes from Cocos Island, Costa Rica called Last Home of the Giants and Underwater Highways. Cocos Island is one of the most incredible places we have ever been to with massive migrations of hemorrhage sharks and other species. We were there with scientists who were tracking the movements of the sharks and sea turtles in and out of marine reserves. The experience of diving at Cocos is something we will never forget. I recommend it to a lot of people who haven’t seen the show because it is so beautiful and gives a powerful sense of the many pressing issues facing the ocean.
Tyler: Alex and I, we both love to scuba dive. Any of the episodes where we get to go scuba diving and film underwater is really fun, challenging but fun.
Another two episodes that stick out in my mind are No Woman, No Water where we got to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and raise $300,000 for clean water projects across East Africa. It was such a physically challenging yet rewarding experience. And The Pure and The Poisoned where we got to attend the Maha Kumbh Mela festival in India, which is the largest gathering of people on Earth. These were both incredible experiences that we will never forget and special episodes to film.
What do you hope that people take away or learn from the episodes?
Alex: Hopefully, people will take away that water is the most precious resource we have on this planet and how we take care of our water resources is a direct reflection of our own health. There is nothing more important and no other resource we should be managing more carefully than freshwater and our oceans.
Tyler: Another thing is that many of the challenges we face seem big and daunting, however, we can solve these problems. We have the technology, we know what the problem is and often times the problem is lack of action. Simple small actions can lead to huge impacts. We want our viewers to know the problem and take away the solution we try to impart on them.
Your website says that you launched a smartphone app on March 22nd 2012 (World Water Day!) called Quench for more sustainable water use. Why did you feel that this was important and how has the app help achieve that?
Tyler: The application came out in 2012 in conjunction with our first season. Quench is a network we built within the GTA of over 2500 businesses, restaurants, cafes, as well as City of Toronto public fountains and user inputted public water source so people can find water ‘on the go.’ We want to encourage people to stop buying bottled water as it creates unnecessary waste and want to make drinking tap water as convenient as possible. We want to encourage people to carry reusable water bottles and have an app that allows them to easily find places where they can refill their bottles ‘on the go’ wherever they are in the city.
How do you measure success?
Alex: That’s for other people to decide. I think the greatest thing is whenever the teachers come up to us and thank us for making the show and tell us it’s great to have educational content that they can show to their students. Content that the students are immediately engaged in and want to watch more of, which they don’t always get when they show videos on these sorts of subjects. When a young student or anyone really shows us appreciation towards the show. Knowing people are watching and that we are impacting education and young people is really rewarding. And if it promotes change in even a couple of people, changes in their life that do something for the planet, that is our mission and more rewarding than any award or accolade that we could receive.
In 20 years, what do you hope you will have achieved?
Alex: Our end goal is to reach more audiences and get more people aware and engaged in water issues.
Tyler: We will be able to gauge our success by seeing whether we need a show like ours in 20 years. If we still have a need for it, then we know that we haven’t fully succeeded yet. We hope we can overcome these big environmental and water challenges in future. We just have to keep raising awareness and moving in the right direction one step at a time!