Change the Course

Photograph by Pete McBride, National Geographic

The Colorado River is a lifeline in western North America, providing water to more than 30 million people, several million acres of farmland, and a wide variety of fish, birds and wildlife. In 2012, National Geographic, Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), and Participant Media launched Change the Course, a freshwater restoration initiative designed to engage the public, corporations, and on-the-ground conservation groups in restoring critical flows to depleted portions of the Colorado River Basin.

Created under the guidance of National Geographic Freshwater Fellow Sandra Postel, Change the Course was designed to educate consumers about their own freshwater footprint and to encourage water conservation. Between 2012 and 2015, more than 165,000 people from 50 states and more than 100 countries made a free pledge to conserve. For every pledge, Change the Course restored 1,000 gallons of water to a critically depleted river or wetland. Early corporate sponsors included WhiteWave, Coca-Cola, Disney, and Patagonia.

Change the Course continues to expand under the leadership of founding partner BEF and Postel’s ongoing freshwater work, motivating businesses to balance their water footprints and support freshwater restoration projects. In 2017, Change the Course was awarded the US Water Prize for its freshwater restoration campaign. Learn more about Change the Course and its current work here.