If Our Water Could Talk
Program Overview

The first settlement at what is now the city of Buffalo was a small trading post along the water’s edge of Buffalo Creek in the 1790s. In the nearly 225 years since, water has framed the history and development of Buffalo. And water will play a vital role in shaping the region’s future. “Buffalo would not be here without the water,” says Robert Shibley, dean of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.

There have been periods when Buffalo and Western New York have flourished and periods when the region has suffered hard times. Water has been a constant through it all. “Our water defined our history and it will define our future as a region,” says Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

More than 22 percent of the city of Buffalo is water and the region lies within the largest fresh water system in the world. The abundance of freshwater is one of Western New York’s greatest resources. “We were once a vibrant waterfront, we should be a vibrant waterfront, and we can be again,” says Robert Gioia, president of the Erie Canal Harbor Restoration Corporation.

The future of the region’s water resources will be determined by plans and policies driven by government, business and industry, and interested individuals and community groups. IF OUR WATER COULD TALK provides an overview of the issues, challenges and opportunities related to the region’s water resources.

“It’s a mid-sized American city struggling to regenerate itself,” says UB’s Shibley. After decades of broken promises and missed opportunities, there is renewed optimism. “Everybody’s got a new hope for Buffalo,” says Peg Overdorf, executive director of the Valley Community Association, “and it’s all about water.”

IF OUR WATER COULD TALK weaves historical context with contemporary stories and characters connected to the water. It tells the story of water as a driving force in Buffalo’s rise through industrialization, its subsequent economic decline, and efforts by community leaders to re-connect communities to the water. The program evokes the beauty of the region’s water resources and captures the unique character of the Buffalo River.

IF OUR WATER COULD TALK explores issues related to water resources in the region. It touches on conservation, environmental cleanup, community and public access, commercial and industrial development, and economic growth. IF OUR WATER COULD TALK strives to answer the question, “are we listening to the water?”

IF OUR WATER COULD TALK is a production of Buffalo Toronto Public Media WNED.

Program Participants

Marty Doster
Marty Doster
Regional Hazardous Waste Remediation Engineer, NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation
Robert Gioia
Robert Gioia
Chairman, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation
John Harting
John Harting
Author, Burning Rivers and Refuge Manager, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
Jill Jedlicka
Jill Jedlicka
Executive Director, Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER
Bob Shibley
Bob Shibley                          
Dean, School of Architecture & Planning- University at Buffalo, State University of NY
Pam Strictland
Pam Strickland
Claredon Place Resident, Buffalo NY
Lauren Makeyenko
Lauren Makeyenko
Experience Manager, Tifft Nature Preserve
Captain Tom Marks
Captain Tom Marks
GR8 Lakes Fishing Adventures, LLC
Peg Overdorf
Peg Overdorf
Executive Director, Buffalo River Fest Park, LLC
Mark Kostrzewski
Mark Kostrzewski
President and Chairman, Buffalo Scholastic Rowing Association
Brian Higgins
Brian Higgins
Congressional Representative NY 26th District
Mark Poloncarz
Mark Poloncarz 
Erie County Executive
Evan VanHook
Vice-President , Honeywell International

  Production Credits


Produced by 
    John Grant

Edited by 
    Chris Bové

    Jim Zinkowski

    Eileen Buckley

Associate Producer
    Andy Grant

Sound Recording
    David Bull
    Tami Coleman

Online and Audio Post Production
    Chris Bové

    Accurate Secretarial, LLC

Additional Video Material Provided by
    Chris Bové
    Jim Gribbins

Archival Resources
    Courtesy of Buffalo History Museum, used by permission
    Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper
    SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering
    Tammy Starzynski
    Tifft Nature Preserve
Production Executive
    David C. Rotterman

Production Coordinator
    Sufana Wajed

Production Manager
    Phil Teibel

    Megan Wager

Website Design
    Beth Fronckowiak
    Christy May
    Nate Schneekloth

Foundation Development
    Lori Bannister
    Martina Fern

Corporate Development
    John Chichester


A Production of WNED-TV, Buffalo/Toronto who is solely responsible for its content. 
© 2014 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

Funding for If Our Water Could Talk is provided by HSBC and Honeywell. With additional funding from The Joy Family Foundation, Lawley Insurance and The Baird Foundation.