ISLAMORADA -- In the public service video, comedian Jon Lovitz is standing on a Southern California beach, preaching the virtues of saving water, when a bikini-clad and thirsty blond walks up and asks if he has any drinkable water.
“No, I’m conserving water,” Lovitz tells her, before coming up with an alternative: “Hey, how about a shot of Wyland tequila?”
The woman responds: “How about a shot of forget it?” and walks away.
Lovitz looks at the camera: “Wyland, can’t we conserve something else?”
Lovitz was one of several comedians who donated their time to do promotional videos for the Wyland Foundation’s second annual “National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation,” which runs throughout April.
The challenge encourages people to change many water-guzzling habits, such as leaving the faucet on while brushing your teeth or hosing off your deck instead of sweeping it.
Wyland Foundation volunteers have asked thousands of mayors to participation, promising coaching on strategies for a successful campaign (this year, for example, the staff of Mayor Jeri Muoio in West Palm Beach put together a creative YouTube video on how to use less water, including putting a timer in the shower). The cities with the highest participation rate in five population categories win prizes to be doled out in a random drawing — including a Toyota Prius C hybrid and water-saving fixtures.
But to Wyland — a marine life artist who lives part-time in Islamorada (he goes by the single name) — everybody wins in water conservation.
“It’s the most important issue for the next 100 years because without water you don’t have life,” Wyland said. “And our message is simple: Save water, save energy, save money, save the planet.”
Steve Creech, executive director of the 20-year-old Wyland Foundation, said the comic connection “developed organically” with the proximity of the Improv Comedy Club to the foundation’s Irvine, Calif., headquarters.
“I called them and they said, ‘Sure, we’ll do it if Wyland paints our building for our 50th anniversary,’” Creech said. “There is so much horse trading going on.”
It didn’t take any paint to lure in comic Pete Dominick, a CNN contributor and host of the SiriusXM daily morning show Stand Up! With Pete Dominick. When he saw a flyer for “Comics for Conservation,” he had never heard of the Wyland Foundation. “But I called and said, ‘Not only do I want to be involved, but I want to be the spokesman.’ ”
Dominick says he’s “kind of a militant environmentalist. It fairly recently happened to me, when I moved to the suburbs and became a father and started worrying about the planet I’m leaving my daughters.”
On April 2, Dominick spoke at the launch of the second annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation in Washington. “We take water for granted,” Dominick said. “Most of the world does not.”
Also at the launch was Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for water for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She said the EPA supports the challenge because it helps promote the federal government’s WaterSense program, created in 2006 and modeled on Energy Star. WaterSense has identified 8,900 products — including toilets, faucets, showerheads and irrigation controllers — that are at least 20 percent more water efficient and still effective.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to work with Wyland,” Stoner said. “I think he’s the most enthusiastic person on the face of the earth. … And we don’t tend to be the best communicators. We’re science based and focus on data and analysis.”
Wyland grew up in Detroit but was inspired about the ocean from watching Jacques Cousteau on TV. For 35 years, Wyland has devoted his life to his marine world art and protecting and conserving water. He is most known for painting 100 Whaling Walls — several in the Keys and the most recent done in Beijing during the 2008 Summer Olympics. He also has co-written 23 books, produced three blues music CDs and is in the midst of completing his third documentary — all about water and marine life.
He keeps looking for new ways to reach people. The conservation challenge began humbly in 2010 in South Florida. Residents who took the pledge to change their water usage habits received a family pass to the South Florida Living Green Fair at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach.
“We were surprised at how competitive it got between the mayors,” Wyland said.
In 2011, the Wyland Foundation tried the challenge in Southern California. Wyland persuaded Toyota Motor Sales USA to become a sponsor.
That regional challenge was such a success that Toyota is now sponsoring on a national level, said Rhonda Glassock, philanthropy manager with Toyota.
“Water is a huge resource we use in the manufacturing process,” Glassock said. “One example of our conservation came from a Canadian plant that was wasting a lot of water in the painting process of vehicles.”
The plant developed a second reverse osmosis process that filters the wasted water, which now is reused. That information was shared with the other North American plants.
“We conserve as a company and we wanted to help inspire others as well to conserve,” Glassock said. “Wyland and his team, as my boss says, are the real deal in terms of dedication and wanting to do the right thing.”
During the first national challenge in 2012, which honored the 40th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act, contestants from about 1,000 cities in all 50 states made online pledges to save 4.7 billion gallons over one year, according to the Wyland Foundation. The potential cost savings was $11.6 million.
The challenge provides an explanation of the benefits and background for each pledge, as well as links to references to learn more. For example, a leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water per year.
And the more water that is used, the more energy that is needed to transport that water and to treat it after it becomes waste water.
“Conserving water helps energy independence, but it’s a tough message to get across,” Creech said.
Stoner of the EPA agreed: “Water is heavy, about 8 pounds per gallon. Moving water around really is a big energy drain.”
And she added: “Water is essential for life, and there is no substitute. It’s not like energy where you have alternatives you can substitute for coal or oil or natural gas.”
This year, the challenge includes an 18-wheeler that carries the Wyland Clean Water Mobile Learning Experience, a 1,000-square-foot interactive exhibit.“It’s got a 40-person movie theater and computer-controlled special effects, with foggers blowing and wind,” Creech said. “It’s super cool.”
Now, after two years of the national challenge, Wyland said: “I’m taking it international next year. Let’s bring this to the world. Really, to protect our water, we can’t just protect it in the United States. All the water on the planet is connected.”
Wyland hopes everyone will do simple things to conserve. “Like guys, if you are shaving, get the blade wet, get the face wet and then shut off the faucet,” he said.
Comic Yakor Smirnoff said in his public service video that he brushes his teeth while showering. “That way my skin is minty fresh.”
And comedian John Pinette had his own take on showering. “We’ve all had a roommate, a partner, a spouse who would take 45-minute showers,” he said. “Hey, what are you washing for 45 minutes?“You can wash an elephant in 28 minutes. Don’t ask me how I know that, but you can. What I’m saying is take a 10-minute shower. You get just as clean. Were you just in a nuclear power plant? Get out of the shower.”