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Foundations, Corporations, Media and Consumers Form New Movement to Restore Colorado River

WASHINGTON (Feb. 12, 2013)—Individuals can help restore water flow to the depleted Colorado River as part of the new “Change the Course” campaign created by National Geographic, Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) and Participant Media. This new water restoration movement educates the public on global freshwater issues while promoting conservation and on-the-ground projects that restore flow to critically dewatered ecosystems.

Change the Course is focusing on restoring the once mighty Colorado River, now so heavily dammed, diverted and depleted that it no longer reaches the sea. To achieve the restoration, Change the Course is challenging members of the public to pledge at changethecourse.us, where they can learn about the vital issues of freshwater and calculate their own water footprints. Underwritten by corporate sponsors, the campaign will restore 1,000 gallons of water back to the Colorado Basin for every pledge made.

“The good news is that we don’t have to dry up rivers to meet our needs,” said National Geographic Fellow and freshwater expert Sandra Postel. “By using water more efficiently and productively, we can have healthy rivers side-by-side with healthy economies.”

On-the-ground campaign efforts will be run through BEF’s Water Restoration Certificate® program, which over the past five years has worked with myriad businesses to restore their water footprint gallon-for-gallon to thirsty streams. Every water conservation pledge will be matched with one Water Restoration Certificate® ensuring that 1,000 gallons of water is restored to critically dewatered rivers of the Colorado.

“Change the Course links a national-level water education and conservation campaign with actual projects that restore water to rivers in need,” explained Todd Reeve, BEF’s CEO. “By partnering with local on-the-ground organizations and leveraging funding from corporations that care about water, we will support projects that replenish flows from headwater streams in the Rocky Mountains all the way down to the Colorado River Delta in Mexico.”

Participant Media, the company behind the 2012 documentary “Last Call at the Oasis,” which focused on the global water crisis, will work to engage consumers in a multi-platform online and offline social action campaign that includes international student outreach with the social enterprise Me to We.

“We saw a real opportunity to extend our social action campaign for ‘Last Call at the Oasis’ by building on the groundbreaking work Bonneville Environmental Foundation had begun with the National Geographic Society and contributing our storytelling and consumer engagement expertise to create a community of people, particularly young people, passionate about water conservation,” said Chad Boettcher, Participant Media’s executive vice president of Social Action & Advocacy. “We hope this community grows over time and can help not only the 30 million people dependent on the Colorado River but other people living in endangered freshwater systems around the world.”

National Geographic, a mission-driven organization whose goal is to inspire people to care about the planet, will develop engaging and inspiring stories about each restoration effort to bring these issues to life across its world-renowned media platforms.

Water is hidden in our diets, in the energy we use and in the products we buy. The average cotton shirt takes 700 gallons of water to make, most of it used to grow the cotton. By using National Geographic’s water footprint tool, consumers can calculate their own water footprint and get tips for conserving.

Rivers are the arteries of the Earth, pumping freshwater to wetlands, lakes and the sea, and supporting the web of life that keeps the planet humming. A number of the world’s largest rivers — including the Colorado, Rio Grande, Yellow, Indus, Ganges, Amu Darya, Murray and Nile — are so overtapped that they discharge little or no water to the sea for months at a time. These rivers not only supply water to hundreds of millions of people and vast areas of farmland, they underpin regional economies and provide critical habitats for fish and wildlife.
To test the program in the Colorado River Basin, National Geographic and BEF partnered with the Colorado Water Trust on a project to sustain flows in the Yampa River throughout the summer of 2012. By late June, the Yampa’s flow had dropped to dangerously low levels due to drought and lack of snow pack. An innovative project led by the Colorado Water Trust and certified by BEF’s Water Restoration Certificate® Program facilitated a summer-long release of water from a local water district. The released water prevented fish populations from crashing and restored flow for river-dependent businesses, strengthening the economic health of the region.

Following the example of the pilot project in the Yampa River, Change the Course will target other critically dewatered sections of the Colorado River watershed, including the Colorado Delta, once a 2-million-acre expanse of verdant wetland and bird habitat that has been decimated by the loss of the Colorado’s flow.

Silk, a maker of soy milk, has enlisted as the first charter corporate sponsor of Change the Course. “Silk is thrilled to support the Change the Course initiative, help restore the Colorado River Basin and positively impact a project in our own backyard,” said Craig Shiesley, senior vice president, Plant Based Beverages and Canada. “As we are a brand that is deeply committed to sustainability and water conservation initiatives, this project is close to our hearts. We encourage others to join us in supporting this important water restoration project.”
Other sustainable brands are invited to get involved in this grass-roots effort to educate and engage the public in water conservation and to restore the iconic Colorado River Basin to health.

About the National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 450 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.

About Bonneville Environmental Foundation
At Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), we believe addressing the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges requires innovation, creative problem solving and discovering a new way of doing business that values the natural resources we depend on. We are entrepreneurs for the planet. Through a full suite of innovative energy, carbon and water solutions we are helping our partners—from the farmer to the corporation—redefine how business gets done. We help our partners meaningfully balance their environmental impact, invest in clean energy and carbon reduction, educate the next generation of clean energy leaders, and effectively and sustainably restore the health of our freshwater resources. Learn more at B-E-F.org.

About Participant Media
Participant Media is an entertainment company that focuses on documentary and non-documentary feature films, television, publishing and digital content about the real issues that shape our lives. For each of its projects, Participant creates social action and advocacy programs to transform the impact of the media experience into individual and community action. Participant’s online division and Social Action Network is TakePart. Founded by Jeff Skoll in 2004, Jim Berk serves as CEO. Participant’s films include “The Kite Runner,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “The Visitor,” “Food, Inc.,” “The Cove,” “The Crazies,” “Countdown to Zero,” “Waiting for “Superman,” “Fair Game”,” PAGE ONE: Inside The New York Times,” “The Help,” “Contagion,” “Last Call at the Oasis,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Lincoln” and “Promised Land.”