About Let's Talk About Water

Let’s Talk About Water brings attention to water and environmental issues by using film as a catalyst for discussion between science experts and the public.  Films can be powerful education tools for the sciences because they use storytelling to engage audiences emotionally, which:

  • heightens audience interest
  • helps the audience make meaningful connections with the subject matter
  • and catalyzes a discussion

Documentary films are especially good at creating teachable moments and providing opportunities to apply critical thinking skills by testing the validity of the film’s message. 

The LTAW formula is simple: A panel of experts and the audience view a water documentary together followed by discussion between the panel and the audience. Moderators actively manage the discussion by challenging the panelists with follow up questions, asking questions to simplify language, and passing a question among panelists to bring out different points of view.

Learn more about developing a Let's Talk About Water event by viewing the video above! A 2011 EOS article also describes the general formula we have used for these events. 

CUAHSI has developed resources for hosting your own Let's Talk About Water event. Check them out here


Let’s Talk About Water Challenge Grant Program 

Each fall, CUAHSI hosts a Challenge Grant Competition that awards three universities up to $3,000 to support the development of their own LTAW events. Organizers often work with their university, other universities in the area, student groups, and other sources (foundations, sponsors, etc.) to hold these events.

The 2018 Challenge Grant Program has closed.

Questions regarding Let's Talk About Water and the Challenge Grant program can be directed to commgr@cuahsi.org

About the Challenge Grant Program

The Challenge Grant program helps support universities in the development of their own Let’s Talk About Water science outreach events. Support for the Challenge Grant program comes from the Johnson Family Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

A limited number of Challenge Grants of up to $3,000 each will be awarded in December 2018 to support Let’s Talk About Water (LTAW) events in 2019. These funds are awarded on a 1-to-1 matching basis meaning that you must provide $1 for each $1 CUAHSI provides with a cap of $3,000 on CUAHSI’s support. LTAW events for this round of Challenge Grant funding must take place between January 1 and November 30, 2019.

In addition to the matching funds, Challenge Grant recipients will receive film and program consultation from Program Director Linda Lilienfeld, who developed the LTAW format. Linda has 35 years of film research experience and has screened over 300 water films and designed successful LTAW events all over the world. Whenever possible, Linda (or another CUAHSI staff member) travels to the event to provide support on site. More information about the LTAW program formula can be found in this EOS article

Previously funded Challenge Grant awardees can be viewed here

Questions regarding Let's Talk About Water and the Challenge Grant program can be directed to commgr@cuahsi.org


Student groups or university faculty are eligible to apply for a Challenge Grant, but the grant must be awarded to a U.S. university, therefore the applicant must be affiliated with a university. 

Student groups are asked to provide a letter of support from a faculty advisor. 

Preference will be given to universities that have not previously received a Challenge Grant. 


I am a student. Can I apply for a Challenge Grant?

Yes! Some of our most creative events have been organized by student groups. We ask that student groups submit a letter of support from a faculty advisor who agrees to over see the project and help with the grant management.

I’m a university staff member, not a professor. Can I apply for a Challenge Grant?

Yes! Applicants must be affiliated with a US university, but do not need to be a professor to apply.

Do in kind donations count as matching funds?

Yes, we will accept in kind donations as part of the matching funds, such as the cost of a venue or faculty’s time. Please be sure to include this in the budget.

Are indirect costs allowed in the budget?

No, indirect costs are not allowed in the Challenge Grant budget.

If selected, when will I receive the Challenge Grant award?

Notification of Challenge Grant award winners will be made in December. The Challenge Grant is awarded as a reimbursement after the completion of the event, meaning that costs should be covered by the event organizer up front. CUAHSI staff can also work with event organizers to pay directly for event costs if needed.

Do you have recommendations for films to use?

Yes! CUAHSI has created a Film Guide that includes frequently used films and ideas to engage the audience. Check it out here!

Photo Credits: Jennifer Cohen (LTAW event at Oregon State University)