Wildlife & Wild Places

Working Together to Change the Course

Everybody prefers a healthy, flowing river to a dried-up river channel.

But in many parts of the world, including much of the western United States, it sometimes appears like we have to dry up our rivers to grow the food we need – that we can’t have productive agriculture and healthy rivers side-by-side.

But, in fact, we can.

Through smarter water management, we can ensure that farmers get the water they need while saving more flow for local rivers.  In that way, we get more crops and more benefits per drop.

In the Verde Valley of central Arizona, Change the Course worked with The Nature Conservancy and local irrigators to install an automated head-gate on a 150-year old ditch system.  This “smart” gate allows farmers to divert the water they need, while leaving more for the river.

This fun video tells the story in 37 seconds.

Our Change the Course pledge community, which now exceeds 63,000 people, helped make this project happen.  For every personal pledge to conserve – and, thanks to our corporate sponsors, those pledges are free to you – we promise to return 1,000 gallons to a depleted river in the Colorado River Basin.

If you’re not yet part of Change the Course, please check out our website — and consider joining us. 

Change the Course is spearheaded by National Geographic, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Participant Media.  By bringing the public, businesses, and conservation groups together, we aim to re-define how society uses, manages, and values fresh water.

You can see our longer video about restoring flows to the Verde River by clicking here.

And our full article about the Verde project, with a photo gallery, appears here.

Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project, Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and author of several books and numerous articles on global water issues.  She is co-creator of Change the Course, the national freshwater conservation and restoration campaign being piloted in the Colorado River Basin.

Special thanks to Silk and Coca-Cola, Charter Sponsors for Change the Course.  Additional funding is generously provided by the Walton Family Foundation.

Sandra Postel directs the independent Global Water Policy Project and lectures, writes, and consults on international water issues. She is also Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and serves as lead water expert for the Society's freshwater initiative. Sandra is the author of several acclaimed books, including the award-winning Last Oasis, the basis for a PBS documentary. Her essay "Troubled Waters" was selected for Best American Science and Nature Writing. Sandra is a Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment, and has been named one of the "Scientific American 50" for her contributions to water policy.

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