The fate of a $1 million donation from Tom's of Maine to The Nature Conservancy is in the hands of the public. Four projects that will help 'Turn the Tide' toward better protecting, preserving and restoring freshwater in the U.S. are being considered - and the public can vote for their favorite to help direct project funding.
“It’s easy to overlook the amount of water we use on a daily basis. At Tom’s of Maine, we want to be a part of the solution, and help show our kids that together we can have an impact at home, at work and as a community,” said Rob Robinson, brand and goodness leader at Tom’s of Maine. “Teaming up with The Nature Conservancy will help us make a difference in support of waterways around the nation.”
Each of the four projects is guaranteed receive a base level of support, a portion of which will go toward the administration of the mission of The Nature Conservancy. The top three vote-getting projects will respectively receive additional funds of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000. Participants are encouraged to vote for the project that they believe will make the biggest impact. The projects include: Restoring and protecting water supplies in the Colorado River Basin; Restoring key floodplains to reduce nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin; Removing dams along the East Coast; and Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a Sustainable Rivers Program to better balance what people and rivers need to thrive.
“The Nature Conservancy understands the importance of protecting and restoring America’s natural waterways to ensure people and nature have access to clean water to thrive,” said Dr. Shelly Lakly, Managing Director of the Conservancy's Saving Rivers program. “To this end, the Conservancy is engaging in water protection projects across the country — such as protecting the Colorado River Basin and restoring the Mississippi River Basin — that not only provide clean drinking water and lower flood risk to our communities, but ultimately keep our rivers healthy.”
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The Colorado River supplies drinking water to more than 36 million people, irrigates more than 5 million acres of land, produces 4,200 megawatts of hydropower, and and supports a thriving $26 billion recreation and tourism industry. The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River Program aims to protect these water supplies and devise new ways to store, allocate and distribute water equitably. The Mississippi River Basin is even bigger, covering or draining 41% of the U.S. across 31 states, making it the world’s fourth largest river basin. Unfortunately, this also means that massive amounts of nutrients from sewage treatment plants, farms and other sources run off into the river basin. These nutrients – mostly nitrogen and phosphorus – end up in the Gulf of Mexico and create a massive dead zone that chokes marine life and hampers human use. The Nature Conservancy is working to target areas contributing the highest levels of runoff to restore the river basin and protect the gulf.
Meanwhile, thousands of outdated dams from Maine to Maryland affect river flow, often cutting off the migrations of fish and other aquatic species completely. Many of these dams are 100-150 years old and no longer in service, but their impacts remain. The East Coast Dam Removal project aims to free miles of river by returning streams to as close to their natural state as possible, in turn allowing them to be more effective and sustainable. Other dams and water infrastructure are in dire need of updates if they are to continue supporting the country’s growing water demands. Through the Sustainable Rivers Program, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working to better use man-made infrastructure and water projects along with natural features as part of a whole-river system that can provide better water supply, more hydropower, lower flood risk and improved natural habitats for local wildlife.
Remaining funds from Tom’s of Maine will go to support the Conservancy’s North American freshwater program, including on-the-ground projects along rivers and in river basins as well as water use and management projects. Similar efforts along the Salt and Verde watershed are being supported by PepsiCo, which announced its continued support for The Nature Conservancy in celebration of World Water Day.