Wildlife

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 is director of the Global Water Policy Project and author of Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity. From 2009-2015, she served as Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society. Sandra is also co-creator of Change the Course, the national water stewardship initiative awarded the 2017 US Water Prize for restoring billions of gallons of water to depleted rivers and wetlands. The recipient of several honorary degrees, she works to bridge science, policy, and practice to promote innovative ways of securing water to meet both human and ecosystem needs.

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Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

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