CU Athletics to tap into fans’ help for water conservation, restoration

Published: Jan. 27, 2016

The University of Colorado Boulder will enlist the help of basketball fans in a program to restore water to the Colorado River Basin and engage community members in at-home water and energy conservation.

Kicking off at the 3 p.m. men’s basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 31, CU-Boulder’s new Water for the West campaign is the latest in a number of sustainability efforts developed in partnership between the CU Environmental Center and CU Athletics.

As part of the campaign, fans at home basketball games will be prompted by an announcement to send a text message pledging to conserve water. The text messages are free although individual carrier charges may apply.

For every text pledge received, CU Athletics will restore 1,000 gallons of water to the Colorado River Basin through a partnership with Change the Course, a national water initiative that engages the public, corporations and the conservation community in restoring water for people and nature. Projects restore water by modernizing irrigation systems, strategically relocating water diversions and working collaboratively to conserve or give back water during times of drought.  

One of the biggest impacts individuals can have on water conservation is to reduce water needs in large-scale production and farming. For example, people can eat less meat, buy only what’s necessary or use less energy.

Through Water for the West, CU Athletics is restoring 10 million gallons of water to projects in the state of Colorado, balancing the estimated 12 million gallons of water used annually by the department for everything from watering Folsom Field to accommodating hundreds of thousands of fans at large-scale sporting events.

The program is designed to align with CU-Boulder’s overall commitment to sustainability and add to CU Athletics’ national leadership in sports sustainability.

“Reducing our water impacts and improving water supplies for people throughout the Pac-12 Conference region is an opportunity and responsibility we take seriously,” said CU Athletics Director Rick George. “Becoming water balanced is the next natural progression in a series of global leadership steps taken by CU Athletics.”

Still in the planning stages, another part of Water for the West will involve the installation of water and energy-saving devices in low-income households in Boulder County. Supported by Wells Fargo & Co., Kohler Co. and CU-Boulder’s Ralphie’s Green Stampede program, CU-Boulder students and professional service providers will be responsible for the upgrades, providing not only more efficient fixtures but also information and training inspiring sustainable behavior changes and awareness of Western water issues among participating residents.

“The program will provide skills for all involved and reduce water use and water bills in low-income households while building eco and climate literacy in Boulder-area communities,” said Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish, CU-Boulder Energy and Climate Justice program manager. “By leveraging CU Athletics’ sustainability leadership, we will further engage students and area residents in energy and water conservation while reducing our community’s environmental footprint.”

Water for the West is the latest addition to Ralphie’s Green Stampede, a trailblazing initiative that has advanced CU Athletics in becoming zero-waste, carbon neutral, free of pesticides, solar powered, sustainably housed, setting an example for other collegiate sports programs and garnering top spots in national and PAC-12 rankings.

Sunday’s basketball game also will feature Pepsi’s “Bring Your Bottle Back to Life” campaign, which rewards fans who recycle with T-shirts made from recycled plastic bottles. Additionally, BASF Corporation, a chemical company, will sponsor the “Sustainable Gamedays” giveaway of 500 kitchen-size compost bins that fans can pick up while supplies last as they exit the Coors Events/Conference Center through the northwest doors located near the exterior ticket windows.

Visit the Ralphie’s Green Stampede site for more information on CU-Boulder’s sports sustainability efforts.

Dave Newport, CU Environmental Center
Elizabeth Lock, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3117

With Colorado's Mount Sopris in the background, water flows along the Roaring Fork River

With Colorado's Mount Sopris in the background, water flows along the Roaring Fork River, a tributary to the Colorado River. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)