DENVER — With one in 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,” said 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, the Geography Awareness Week website offers access to activities, lessons, and games about freshwater. The website also features opportunities to join nearly 100,000 geography supporters in promoting the cause of freshwater. 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 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.

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