This film offers a front row seat to “water wizard” Bill Zeedyk and his proteges who are transforming degraded wetlands and drylands into more resilient ecosystems – girding against the ravages of drought and climate change.

(Production Phase 98% Complete)

The Story

Thinking Like Water offers a front row seat to the pioneering work of 86-year-old “water wizard” Bill Zeedyk, and his proteges and allies, who have continually devised ways of transforming degraded wetlands and drylands into more resilient ecosystems that help gird against the ravages of drought and climate change. 

One project at a time, these frontline nature enthusiasts are helping the West’s forests, grasslands, meadows, semi-arid deserts and working landscapes to thrive. Through partnerships and collaborations, more communities are learning how to live in alignment with nature rather than against her…by Thinking Like Water.

Today, Zeedyk is a legend in the ecological restoration community. But when he began this work 25 years ago, after retiring from the U.S. Forest Service, his ideas were considered almost heretical.

Building on the work of Luna Leopold (son of famed conservationist Aldo Leopold) and the river guru Dave Rosgen, Zeedyk coaxes straightened streams back on their natural meandering course, lifts the creek, raises the water table and recreates lost habitats. All while using simple restoration techniques he designed or innovated upon. These constellations of “Zeedyk structures” have slowly gained favor and now his methods have even been institutionalized.

This story hopes to celebrate and capture the philosophy and creativity at the root of Zeedyk’s decades long history of revolutionizing a field of restoration in a compelling, and sometimes humorous way, that leaves viewers enlightened, entertained, and inspired!

Follow the Project

Mary Ann McGraw

"Bill has been the designer, the construction manager, the innovator, the inspiration, and the supporter...his efforts allow us to see and experience how successful wetlands restoration benefits wildlife, people, communities and cultures."

– Maryann McGraw, Wetlands Program Coordinator, NM Environment Department Water Quality Bureau

Joan Tybee

"Like many landowners, I would never have imagined that about 10% of my ranch used to be a wetland until Bill pointed this out...we have used several methods of his devising to bring back these wetlands."

– Joan L. Bybee, Mesteno Draw Cattle Co, Mountainair, NM

Molly Walton-Quivira Coaltion

“Your efforts in regard to Bill's considerable and ongoing contributions are so welcome...a dream come true to many of us.”

– Mollie Walton, Comanche Creek Project Director / Quivira Coalition

Help Tell This Story

It takes energy and resources to tell a story as big as this one. For the past three years, we’ve been filming Bill and his working partners and communities across the West. Your support will help us tell the wider story.  

As we head into the final production stretch, your donation will make a huge difference!

We are pleased to have received a letter of interest from NMPBS to broadcast the documentary.

Comanche Creek Post Vane Treatment
Aerial image above: The Ring Drainage area of Valle Vidal (on the east side of the rock wall), where one rock dams have been hand-built by volunteers since the mid 2000's. Image directly above: Near the heart of the Valle Vidal (on the west side of the rock wall), where post vanes and baffles installed along Comanche Creek are working their magic.

Whether you hike the trails in the Rocky Mountains or live in the heart of Tucson, once you Think Like Water, you'll want to Let the Water do the Work.

Brad Lancaster on Green Street installation in Tucson
"That points to a huge potential we're not even coming close to beginning to tap" - Brad Lancaster, author - Rainwater Harvesting Design

“The work we’ve been doing in neighborhoods inspired the City of Tucson to establish a Green Street policy, where new road construction or major renovation must include spillways that direct water to adjacent landscaping – satisfying much of the irrigation demand while also reducing flooding. 

In the old paradigm, street runoff would flow down this pavement directly to the storm drain, kicking it out of the system, dehydrating an already dry environment.” 

– Brad Lancaster, Author/Rainwater Harvesting Expert, Tucson native, colleague & protege of Bill Zeedyk


Let the Maps Tell the Story

With adequate funding and support, we hope to harness the power of ESRI StoryMaps to create immersive learning modules where online viewers can dive and wade in various ecosystems at their own pace. Exploring how landscapes are responding to treatments. Getting one step closer to those monitoring the results. Using tools that allow us to learn from wild lands and working lands even if they are hundreds of miles away.   

By combining maps, remote sensing, and before/after photo points with multi-media stories of historic, cultural, economic and geographical significance, we hope to elevate the practical knowledge gained from these cutting-edge practitioners.

Got less than a minute? Watch this short animation on upland slope treatments. Treatment Design by Bill Zeedyk and Steve Vrooman, Implementation and GIS by Keystone Restoration Ecology in partnership with Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, Funded by Wildlife Conservation Society. Cartography and Video by Renea Roberts, R3 Productions. Pictured location at the entrance to Valles Caldera National Preserve in Northern NM at Hwy 4 Main Entrance.