A Foundation's New Effort to Encourage America’s Cities to Become More Water Wise

Robert Wyland is best known as the artist behind the 100 whaling murals on walls throughout the world. Considering all the views his walls receive, his multiple galleries, and image merchandizing, a case can be made that this artist’s work is the most viewed in the world. His business savvy has generated millions of dollars, and he's also created the Wyland Foundation, which is not a traditional grantmaking organization (in fact it rases money) and engages in educational activities. 

According to the foundation’s mission statement, it “is dedicated to promoting, protecting, and preserving the world’s ocean, waterways, and marine life. The foundation encourages environmental awareness through education programs, public arts projects, and community events.

Unlike many interested in marine matters, though, Wyland is also interested in water conservation. 

Coming soon is the annual Wyland National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation, competition between municipalities across the United States to see which one can best raise conservation awareness through a pledge. The competition is based on population size and not geography, so even though Boston is currently dealing with a surfeit of freshwater due to record breaking snow, it could find itself in a battle with San Francisco, a city that, for the first time in recorded history, had no precipitation in January. In the fourth year of a drought, with water conservation on everybody’s mind, California cities should do well in this competition.  

The competition is based on the honor system. A city’s resident only has to commit to saving water and energy by registering at www.mywaterpledge.com. There is no way to measure the amount saved.  Participants can pledge now; the competition shifts into campaign mode April 1-30. By the end of April, the cities with the highest percentage of inhabitants who take up the challenge in one of five population categories win. Mayors do not have to participate; this is a grassroots effort. Here’s the population breakdown:

Last year, the Wyland foundation paid out more than $50,000 in prizes to nearly 1,000 U.S. urban residents.

This year, winning cities in each category will get WaterSmart Software, designed to help engage their residents in saving water, a prize worth $30,000. If your city wins, you would be entered into a sweepstakes to win any of a slew of prizes from a 2015 Toyota Hybrid Prius averaging 50 MPG to an EcoFlow Showerhead. Everybody who signs up will be entered in a drawing to win $1,000 worth of merchandise from a home improvement store, so there will no longer be any excuse about not having low-flow water fixtures. Classrooms are eligible for a drawing for a Target gift cards if their teachers sign up. There are also daily drawings for those encouraging their Facebook friends to participate.

What is noteworthy about this contest is that it works on multiple tracks. There is the kind of friendly inter-urban competition one sees in sports rivalry, but nobody who participates is cut out of the running. Simply through exposure to dozens of energy and water saving tips and by pledging to do something, a participant is entered into a contest for a good cause with far better odds at winning than the Megamillions lottery.