November 15, 2010


WASHINGTON (Nov. 10, 2010)—With one of every six people on Earth lacking access to safe drinking water, freshwater is one of the defining issues of the 21st century. Although water is essential for life, less than 1 percent of water on our planet is available for drinking. “Freshwater!” is the theme of Geography Awareness Week 2010, Nov. 14-20, supported by National Geographic and other partner organizations and sponsored by CH2M HILL, an international engineering consulting firm. Founded as a water firm in the 1940s, CH2M HILL has been working for decades to help people around the world find the right solutions to their water challenges.

Geography Awareness Week is an annual celebration enacted by Congress in 1987 that encourages families and schools to engage in fun, educational experiences that draw attention to geo-literacy and the importance of geography education. During Geography Awareness Week 2010, National Geographic invites students, teachers and parents to learn more about freshwater and how it connects to geography.

“Freshwater is one of the most critical issues of the 21st century,” said Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s executive vice president of Mission Programs. “National Geographic is committed to increasing awareness about this vital natural resource through our Freshwater Initiative. Our Geography Awareness Week website ( gives students and teachers the necessary tools to understand the complexity of the global freshwater crisis and its extraordinary role in shaping the geography of our world.”

During Geography Awareness Week, grassroots organizers around the country will host events, workshops and contests at local schools and community centers. Engineers from CH2M HILL will visit classrooms in many states to share hands-on freshwater activities with students and discuss connections between geography and real-world engineering projects.

“Our world needs sustainable water management solutions that support society and nature,” says Bob Bailey, president of CH2M HILL’s Water Business Group. “The decisions we make today about water will affect generations to come. We are proud to partner with National Geographic — a leader in scientific and cultural research and education — to help bring public awareness to this vital issue. Our firm is committed to sustainability; to protecting and preserving our planet’s natural resources; and to inspiring and educating a future workforce that will help solve the environmental and engineering challenges of tomorrow.”

In celebration of Geography Awareness Week, Zinio, the digital magazine and book distributor, will offer free access to and a free download of the digital edition of the April 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine, “Water: Our Thirsty World,” during November. This single-topic special issue highlights the challenges facing our most essential natural resource. The digital edition presents complete content from the print edition, plus extra photo galleries, rollover graphics that animate features like maps and timelines, video profiles of photographers who contributed to the issue and other interactive features.

The Geography Awareness Week website offers access to activities, lessons and games about freshwater. The site features contributions from National Geographic and partner organizations such as ESRI, 4-H, Newspapers in Education, Zinio and GeoEye. Visitors can use a water footprint calculator to determine how much water their family uses — from watering the lawn to the “hidden” water in household items like blue jeans — and find ways their family can conserve. Teachers can access a wealth of lesson plans about freshwater, including featured activities for use with new National Geographic Mapmaker Kits. Educators and parents alike will find valuable lists of recommended books and films, as well as crossword puzzles and other family-friendly games.

The website also features opportunities to join nearly 100,000 geography supporters in promoting the cause of freshwater. Resources are provided on how to host a local Geography Awareness Week event, including a guide to hosting a 3.7-mile Walk for Water or a Freshwater Trivia Night. A link to the new Global Action Atlas offers connections to people and organizations involved in innovative water projects around the world.

Site visitors also can read and contribute to a Geography Awareness Week Blog-a-Thon, which is updated multiple times daily with commentary and multimedia. The Blog-a-Thon also features a “What’s That Water?” quiz, challenging visitors to identify freshwater bodies in satellite imagery, provided by GeoEye, for chances to win prizes.

The National Geographic Society is one of the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 375 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,400 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit

Headquartered in Denver, Colo., employee-owned CH2M HILL is a global leader in consulting, design, design-build, operations and program management for government, civil, industrial and energy clients. With $6.3 billion in revenue and 23,500 employees, CH2M HILL is an industry-leading program management, construction management and design firm, as ranked by Engineering News-Record (2010). The firm’s work is concentrated in the areas of water, transportation, environmental, energy and power, and facilities and infrastructure. The firm has long been recognized as a most-admired company and leading employer. Visit

For more information and resources for Geography Awareness Week, visit

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