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Whiskey Rebellion: a revolution in water use got its start in Denver

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Don't wash your jeans. When Levi's CEO Chip Burgh dropped that piece of advice last May, he wasn't just talking about preserving your denim. Lots of water is used in the production of your new 501s, a fact that brings home the day-to-day impact our choices have on how water is used -- and how much of it is used. As for whiskey, it's mostly water, too. Whiskey Rebellion, the national spirits showcase that poured out knowledge and spirits in Denver clast week, wants to raise awareness regarding how much water goes into those Manhattans. And the movement got its start right here in Denver. See also: Stranahan's offers new opportunity to lounge with whiskey cocktails. In the mid-1990s, while working for a local consulting firm, Denver native Ken Miller saw that a nation's prosperity was directly linked to its access to clean water. Collaborating with a group of water and wastewater engineers, he started Water for People, a non-profit organization focused on elevating clean-water standards in developing countries.

One of the Water for People initiatives designed to raise funds to start water projects in Africa, India and Latin America is Whiskey Rebellion, which landed at the Curtis Hotel on July 10. During the event, which served up both whiskey and information, we sat down with Water for People CEO Ned Breslin to talk about the non-profit's mission.

"We have had this massive impact in the United States," Breslin says. "Water is flowing, people can flush toilets, disease is down, economic development is growing. So we've done a great job in the U.S. at this, and it's helped launch America as a great country.

"In Africa and Latin America, people struggle to get water every day," he continues. "They defecate in the open, because there are no toilets. Water for People was designed to replicate the success of North America and transfer that overseas, so that other countries can grow, thrive and survive." Water for People currently has projects under way in India, Rwanda, Malawi and Uganda, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Peru.

Whiskey Rebellion events have been held in Oakland, Boston and Denver, with more planned next year. And they're not just targeting whiskey drinkers. Water for People also plans events to connect with the fashion industry, breweries and coffee roasters -- any industry in which water is a major component.

"I think there's quite an appetite for whiskey all around the country. Part of is about awareness," Breslin says. "Distillers, brewers, roasters -- all these guys are really at the forefront of water conservation and water use. They have a natural affinity to what we do -- creative conservation efforts around water supply. So, through sales and through promotion, through tickets and all that kind of stuff, that will translate into our work overseas."

Water for People's efforts at Whiskey Rebellion events highlight the fact that water usage is not limited to taking showers, doing dishes or washing cars. It's about realizing that the things we do and buy have a connection to water.

Breslin may or may not wash his jeans, but Water for People's projects have had measurable impact around the globe. "We're engaged in water supply and sanitation projects all over the world where water flows," he says. "And where clean water flows, kids get to go to school and girls are no longer fetching water in polluted rivers and streams."

Keep reading for more photos from the event...

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