June 6, 2011; Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting | An Oregon foundation and its nonprofit partners are watching the Stanley Cup with particular interest this year. It’s not that the region is home to passionate Bruins or Canucks fans. In fact, the best outcome for these Oregon partners is a grueling seven game double-overtime series. Who wins the championship hardly matters.

The foundation is the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF). The local nonprofit partner is the Deschutes River Conservancy. The reason for Stanley Cup fervor? For every gallon of water used at the host arenas in Boston and Vancouver over the championship series, the National Hockey League has pledged to buy “water restoration certificates” that fund stream flow restoration work on the Middle Deschutes River in Central Oregon.

The pledge covers water for ice making, concessions, toilets, showers, water fountains, cleaning . . . every drop tapped for this major sporting event.

Each certificate represents 1,000 gallons of water that’s been measurably restored to critically depleted rivers. BEF created water resource certificates as a market-based tool to connect businesses that want to offset the impact of their water use, with communities working to restore freshwater resources.

The order of investment is interesting: this isn’t merely a funding mechanism for re-granting corporate contributions to local nonprofits. BEF frontloads grant investment to nonprofits like the Deschutes River Conservancy. Certificates sold in the marketplace are issued later, based on results (increased stream flow, third party certified) rather than intentions. The foundation is capitalizing its future grant making through the marketplace.

This revenue will continue to fund nonprofits working on “stream flow restoration” through such strategies as purchasing or leasing water rights, modifying land management practices, and/or water conservation infrastructure. Through such activity, nonprofits working locally in specific watersheds create financial incentives for senior water rights holders, often farmers, to leave water in-stream rather than tapping it for irrigation. No legislation or regulation is involved: all participation is voluntary.

This is the first national level-market based program that builds freshwater supplies. Acknowledging hockey’s obvious water consumption, as well as the sport’s roots on icy freshwater ponds, the NHL has prioritized water stewardship as an investment priority. From BEF, they’ve committed to buy a minimum of 1,000,000 gallons ($1,000 worth) in water restoration certificates, though the actual total will likely be significantly more.

Together, the Deschutes River Conservancy, Bonneville Environmental Foundation and the NHL have scored a creative hat trick for water restoration.—Kathi Jaworski