Doc explores town water issues

Steve Lerner, a psychologist and documentary filmmaker in Lawrence, joined with his longtime friend and award-winning filmmaker Reuben Aaronson to make "When the Well Runs Dry," which explores water resources in Kansas through the stories and experiences of Florence residents. The documentary will make its debut Saturday at the Masonic Center in downtown Florence. (JAN BILES/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL)

Doc explores town water issues

Film to make its debut Saturday at Florence
July 12, 2015

LAWRENCE — A few years ago, Lawrence psychologist and documentary filmmaker Steve Lerner became fascinated with Florence, a town of about 460 people in Marion County.

Lerner ended up producing “Florence, Kansas,” a documentary about the town’s history and struggle to survive, which made its debut in May 2011.

But Florence remained on Lerner’s mind. He remembered conversations he had with residents about their worries over water. The city gets its water from a spring, and its lease with the owner of the land where the spring runs was expiring. A new contract had yet to be negotiated.

“A lot of small towns worry about water,” he said.

So, when Lerner and his longtime friend and award-winning Los Angeles filmmaker Reuben Aaronson began talking about collaborating on a short documentary, their attention turned to Florence and its water issues.

“When the Well Runs Dry” explores water resources in Kansas through the stories and experiences of Florence residents. The documentary, which will have its first screening 2 p.m. Saturday at the Masonic Center in Florence, is funded by the Kansas Humanities Council and sponsored by the Florence Historical Society.

Attending the premiere will be Lerner; Aaronson; Jim Jewell, videographer and technical director for the film; and Greg Allen, who composed the documentary’s music.

After the film, a panel discussion will be moderated by Tom Averill, an English professor at Washburn University. Panel members will include Gina Miller, a Flint Hills rancher; Matthew Sanderson, an associate professor of sociology at Kansas State University; and Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, an associate professor of history at K-State.

Registration for lunch at the Doyle Creek Mercantile in Florence can be made by calling (620) 878-4294. The Tallgrass Express String Band also will perform.

“If there are too many people, we may have a second screening,” Lerner said.

About 15 individuals were interviewed for the documentary, but not all of them appear in the film. They discuss the town’s water issues, conservation and the causes of climate change.

“I hope this film will spark a discussion,” he said.

Lerner said three public television stations — KTWU in Topeka, KCPT in Kansas City, Mo., and KPTS in Wichita — have shown interest in airing the documentary.


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