I enjoyed the remarkable honor of sharing the stage with Robert Redford Saturday evening during the Raise The River event at the Arizona Science Center. Raise The River is a collaboration between the Sonoran Institute and the Redford Center to reconnect the Colorado River with its Delta in Mexico by purchasing water rights to help increase river flow.
Park&Co helped Raise The River share its story. Given our more than 15 years working with water conservation and management campaigns, organizers asked if we would also present to the more than 200 donors at the event. I received the program a couple days earlier, and noticed a funny thing. I was going on AFTER the Sundance Kid. Me following the headliner? This unusual scheduling inspired the opening to my speech.
Good evening. I can’t tell you how incredible it is to be here tonight. In fact, when I received the schedule of events, I just had to email it to our son Parker, who is a motion graphics artist and an aspiring film director in Hollywood. His dry response: “That’s great, dad. Robert Redford must be excited to open for you.”
I have a confession to make, though. I am the son of a dam builder.
My father was a civil engineer and had a construction company in Seattle called Constructors PAMCO. In addition to dams, he built powerhouses. Pipelines. Tunnels. He practically plumbed the Pacific Northwest. I put myself through college working summers as a laborer and carpenter’s assistant for PAMCO.
My last two summers were spent expanding the Spada Lake reservoir in the Cascade mountains to help insure the water supply for the northern part of Seattle. I remember one time when it rained so hard on the job site that we had to knock off early for lunch. One of the carpenters was bemoaning the downpour, which prompted me to point out, “Good place for a reservoir, I suppose.” My humor, much as it is today, went unappreciated. They just looked at me like: “Damn kid.”
Essentially, I grew-up in water, until I “wised-up” in 1985 and moved to the driest place I could find. Phoenix, AZ.
Now given my family heritage of harnessing the great power of water, you might find it a little ironic – as I do – that I stand before you at this incredible Raise The River gathering: an event to help release the mighty Colorado River back to its native flow. Well, as Paul Harvey would say, “here’s the rest of the story.”
We started our ad agency, Park&Co, in 1995. One of our first great communications challenges was to help the City of Mesa create a water conservation campaign. Like every great pioneer in the west, Mesa had grand ambitions for the program, but lacked the resources to make a significant splash. They did, however, have a nugget of information that would make all the difference in the water conservation world. Mesa had done a study of its water customers. Incidentally, the City of Phoenix, and the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, had also done similar studies at the same time. And although each study was done independent of the other, they all uncovered the same truth. People said, “Don’t TELL me to save water. Show me how.” Consumers didn’t want to be told what to do. They wanted to be invited to participate in the story of conservation.
And so that’s exactly what we did.
The Water – Use It Wisely campaign sprang to life with the central theme: “There are a number of ways to save water, and they all start with you.” This universal message began as a simple idea in Mesa, and the cities of metropolitan Phoenix quickly joined forces, as did AMWUA and the State of Arizona. Their individual efforts became one. And it didn’t stop there. To demonstrate its generosity and leadership in water management, the Arizona coalition made the campaign available to organizations across the country that wanted to join the cause.
Water – Use it Wisely, in a few short years, became THE largest water conservation outreach effort of its kind in the world with more than 400 private and public entities sharing the message throughout North America. This national movement, like all great social causes, began with a single, daring drop right here in the Valley of the Sun. Its simple, universal message has created concentric circles of influence reaching multitudes around the world. And it’s still flowing strong in its 15th year… a testament to the vision of many people standing in this room tonight.
Thank you for your support, and for being part of this monumental effort… for demonstrating Arizona’s continued leadership in all matters water… and of course, for using water wisely.And when you leave tonight, be sure to take a drop with you and plant it next Spring in warm, damp ground. You’ll be treated to a bouquet of desert wildflowers as a reward for your commitment to Raise the River.
What a fun experience: a watershed moment in my career.