A still from "Damnation." Courtesy image.

Dam days are over, according to the documentary film “DamNation.” The American Institute of Architects (AIA) San Antonio‘s Committee on the Environment (COTE) will show the film at Travis Park on Thursday at 7 p.m., followed by a viewer discussion.

Bring a blanket on Thursday and come with an empty stomach as food trucks will be present. The event is free and open to the public.

“DamNation” is a documentary film that explores the evolution of dams, from structures that were once perceived as engineering wonders to barriers that threaten the environment. Ultimately, the creators of “DamNation” aimed to use the film as a catalyst for dam removal.


The film explores the environmental benefits of dam removal, a process that is proven to be an effective way to restore watershed ecosystems, revive wild and sustainable fisheries, improve water quality, and even help slow climate change. According to the film’s website, a study by Washington State University-Vancouver found that dams contribute to global warming because reservoirs “harbor biological activity that can produce large amounts of greenhouse gases.”

The film argues that dams are a dated technology that cause more problems than they solve.

The purpose of a dam is to hold water in a reservoir which provides water supply, offer a means of flood control, and are often used to generate hydropower.

In the early 1880s, when a power plant in Wisconsin used falling water to create electricity, the construction of dams on the nation’s waterways rose. Because of rapid construction, the federal government passed the General Dam Act of 1906 to control dam construction and maintenance.

“DamNation” states that there are alternatives to dams, including innovative ways to reduce water use and waste such as low-use water fixtures at homes, utilizing reclaimed water, drip irrigation systems, planting drought tolerant species and harvesting crops in their appropriate regions.

COTE Co-Chair Carlos Cruz was skeptical of dam removal, but after seeing the film’s trailer he lost all skepticism.

“I think it’s a pretty powerful film,” he said.

San Antonio is in a drought with Stage 2 water restrictions and so, Cruz said, any discussion about water issues is of importance.

“Maybe (the film) will create discussion on the important measures of water conservation,” he said.

AIA San Antonio COTE Cinema has been showing environmental documentaries in San Antonio for at least five years. Last year COTE showed the film “TINY,” which explores the lifestyle and benefits of living in tiny houses.

*Top image: A still from “DamNation.” Courtesy image. 

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Former Rivard Report Assistant Editor Joan Vinson is a San Antonio native who graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's a yoga fanatic and an adventurer at heart....