expand your water knowledge

Water has no substitute, share it wisely—10 simple tips to conserve

By National Geographic—Water is the basis of life, and on this planet only a tiny share—less than one percent of all water—is available for nearly 7 billion people and a myriad of freshwater aquatic ecosystems. It’s that tiny share of freshwater that we have to use to meet all of our needs—irrigation, industry, drinking water, and sanitation—and the needs of thousands, if not millions, of other species that we share the planet with.

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Change the Course campaign frequently asked questions

Q: What is the Change the Course campaign?

A: Change the Course brings together the public, corporations, and on-the-ground conservation organizations to raise awareness about freshwater, reduce water footprints, and restore flows and health to vital freshwater ecosystems.

For every personal pledge to conserve, Change the Course returns 1,000 gallons to an ecosystem in need. Corporate partners underwrite the restoration projects, which are teed-up with on-the-ground conservation partners. It’s a virtuous cycle of education, conservation and restoration – and it’s working.


Q: Where do I make the free pledge to conserve?

A: You can make the pledge online at ChangetheCourse.us or use your phone to text “river” to 77177. If you use the text option you’ll receive a confirmation text—you can opt out of receiving future texts at any time.


Q: What are the goals of the Change the Course campaign?

A: Change the Course was piloted in the Colorado River Basin. By the conclusion of the 3-year pilot, over 130,000 individuals made a pledge to conserve water, and over 2 dozen corporate sponsors joined the movement. As a result, over four billion gallons of water were restored to depleted rivers and streams from the headwaters in the Rockies to the delta in Mexico.

Change the Course is building a movement by engaging the public and the business community in reducing water footprints and returning water to nature. For every personal pledge to conserve, Change the Course returns 1,000 gallons to ecosystems in need. With support from our corporate sponsors, we partner with on-the-ground conservation groups to fund innovative projects that restore water and enhance water security.


Q: How does making a pledge to Change the Course really make a difference?

A: Simply put, your pledge equals 1,000 gallons restored to an ecosystem in need. Yet, beyond this simple equation, your commitment to conserve also makes you part of a national movement. Our corporate sponsors are interested in helping us build a movement that encourages conservation from individuals (like you) and industry—as well as the development of innovative projects that restore water and enhance water security.


Q: People really use 2,000 gallons of water a day? That sounds like a lot more than any other statistic I’ve read before!

A: Water is embedded in everything we use, wear, eat and buy, so yes, it takes about 2,000 gallons4 of water a day to keep the average American’s lifestyle afloat. A simple cotton shirt takes about 700 gallons of water to make—most of it to grow the cotton out in the field. Our water use at home, indoors and outdoors, averages about 100 gallons5 per person per day. And even though this home use is only about 5%6 of our daily water footprint, conserving at home is important because it helps protect the rivers and lakes in our communities. Learn more about your embedded water footprint with the National Geographic water footprint calculator at  ChangetheCourse.us. By better understanding how much water it takes to keep our lifestyles afloat, we can make some easy and wise choices to conserve – and help replenish depleted rivers.


Q: So, I made the pledge, what else can I do to make a difference?

A: Change the Course encourages you to seek out ways in your every-day life to make an impact. By making some simple and wise choices, we can each shrink our personal water footprint. Check out these Water Conservation Tips to get you started.




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how WRCs work

Water Restoration Certificates® (WRCs) are a voluntary, market-based program that provides farmers, ranchers and water users an economic incentive to devise new water management solutions that restore water to critically dewatered ecosystems. Each WRC represents 1,000 gallons of water restored in stream on your behalf and directly contributes to restoring the recreational and ecological vitality of critical freshwater ecosystems.


1 WRC = 1,000 gallons of water restored


VERIFICATION—The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a widely-recognized leader in freshwater restoration for the past 12 years, reviews all WRC flow restoration projects to ensure optimum environmental benefit.


PROOF OF PURCHASE—BEF provides you with a proof of purchase certificate by email to ensure that only you own the environmental attributes associated with the specific quantity of restored flow made possible by your purchase and to confirm the project supply from which your WRC was generated.






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types of WRC projects


BEF partners with many organizations to channel funding from the sale of Water Restoration Certificates® (WRCs) to a range of projects that actually enhance or restore flows and water to benefit critically dewatered sections of rivers, streams and wetlands. There are several project types that are used to achieve flow restoration goals.

The project types described below represent the diversity of projects that could make up BEF’s WRC portfolio. They are provided as information only to help inform our customers about where and how WRCs are generated.

  • WATER MANAGEMENT AGREEMENTS: In many states, water rights can be permanently or temporarily transferred from one use to another—and in some cases, new management approaches can deliver water at critical times to replenish depleted rivers, streams, and wetlands. Funding to support water transfers and management agreements provides important environmental benefit by restoring flows of water to critical wetland areas or chronically depleted streams to benefit fish and wildlife and enhance water quality and recreational values. Through water management or leasing agreements, water rights holders can designate some of their water to be used for environmental benefit, meaning that water rights are legally dedicated to enhance flows and improve environmental conditions. Under the right circumstances, many states in the West allow restored water to be legally protected against other downstream water use. The BEF Water Restoration program provides funding to local organizations to pay for the costs associated with implementing water leasing, management, and forbearance agreements that secure new water to support environmental and recreation benefits.


  • IRRIGATION INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES: Each year, outdated irrigation systems in the U.S. can leak up to 80% of the water they attempt to transfer to thirsty crops. Addressing this challenge with modernized systems is just one of the innovative solutions that funding from the BEF Water Restoration program supports. Opportunities to conserve water used for agriculture in the U.S. abound, however funding to support infrastructure modernization and water conservation is lacking. BEF’s Water Restoration program supports projects that invest in new irrigation infrastructure that allows irrigators to conserve and divert less water from dewatered rivers, streams and aquifers. By funding irrigation system upgrades, BEF supports projects that leave significant “saved water” in the river to benefit fish, wildlife, recreation, and water quality. While projects of this type do not create “new water” they play a central role in enhancing flows in critically dewatered streams.


  • NATURAL HYDROLOGIC RESTORATION: In many locations, human alterations to the landscape have changed the natural hydrology of river and groundwater systems. Due to extensive landscape alterations, natural rainfall and runoff are often no longer able to recharge groundwater tables, leading to depleted river flows and groundwater systems. Furthermore, many stream systems have been dammed or routed away from floodplains and stream channels, compromising natural flow patterns, hindering migration of animals, and/or restricting the natural infiltration and replenishment of groundwater. Artificial impoundments also can lead to water quality and safety concerns that include algal blooms and toxic water conditions. BEF’s Water Restoration Program supports projects that restore physical conditions to facilitate natural flow conditions that recharge groundwater tables, replenish depleted rivers and springs, and restore natural flow conditions needed to support fish and wildlife and recreation.


  • INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS: Across the U.S. and the world, advanced information technology systems have demonstrated the ability to support precision application of water, reduce pollutant runoff, and conserve water. Deployment of hi-tech systems to monitor and control water management and application has tremendous potential to reduce our withdrawal of surface and groundwater and alleviate water and food security challenges. By precisely measuring water needs and utilizing automated systems to apply and manage water, many farmers are able to sustain food production using less water. However, hi-tech water management systems are expensive to deploy and maintain, and in many parts of the U.S. use of these systems is rare. BEF’s Water Restoration Program supports projects that deploy hi-tech water sensing and management systems where it is possible to conserve water, reduce pollutants, and/or replenish river flows, groundwater, and habitat.


These types of projects can apply to rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater aquifers.





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“Ditch boss” helps keep a thirsty river flowing

By National Geographic—In mid-January Frank Geminden was picking the pecans off his 150 trees in central Arizona. First there was the shaking, with the fallen shells going through a machine to crack them open. Then came the shelling and sorting, and the bagging. It wasn’t a good year for pecans. A late frost in March 2013 ensured much of the yield would turn to dust.

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Defending a western river with art and collaboration

By National Geographic—In the small town of Fraser, Colorado, a bronze Dwight D. Eisenhower is having a good day: Fly fishing, he has just caught a trout out of the river and is skillfully depositing it into his basket. The former president is appropriately dressed for the occasion with wading boots, an angler’s vest, and a wide-­brim hat. Decades before, the real Ike could be seen angling much the same way in about the same spot.

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Help return the Colorado River to the sea

By National Geographic—Imagine if one day you couldn’t get home.  Your journey stopped short of where you were supposed to be. That’s the story of the iconic Colorado River, which sculpted the Grand Canyon and today sustains 30 million people, but now stops flowing 90 miles before reaching the sea, its final destination.

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In the Yampa River, extra flow makes for happier fish

By National Geographic—Back in late June 2012, the Yampa River – a beautiful Colorado River tributary that runs through the heart of Steamboat Springs, Colorado – was flowing at 5 percent of normal. Both the native whitefish population and the recreational trout fishery were threatened due to the river’s low levels of oxygen and its warmer temperatures. Besides the risks to fish, the low flows had caused tubing and kayaking businesses to shut down, hurting the local economy.

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Young farmer saves water in innovative ways

By National Geographic—On a cold and dry December Friday, Zach Hauser is getting ready for a weekend of hunting. The next morning at about 4 a.m., he and a handful of friends will make a nearly three-hour uphill trek into the Arizona woods. There they will tread quietly looking for elk and whitetail deer. On occasion, they come across a mountain lion. They will probably return late the same night, but “if we get something, we might stay the night and sleep on the ground,” Hauser says. “It’s better to carry it back in the morning.”

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