Marine wildlife artist and conservationist Robert Wyland (widely known by his last name) was at the Mall of America this week to kick off his foundation's sixth annual National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation.

"The work we do to protect our water in the next decade, will have an impact on the next century," Wyland told the audience.

Wyland is an international artist known for his life-sized public art displays of marine life and the Wyland Foundation, an Irvine, Calif.,- based nonprofit dedicated to preserving the world's oceans, waterways and marine life.

Among the Foundation's programs is the National Mayor's Challenge, a friendly competition among more than 4,000 cities in which mayors challenge their residents to conserve water. Winning cities have the greatest percentage of residents who take the Foundation's My Water Pledge.

Corporate sponsors of the program are Toyota, Conserva Irrigation, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and Bloomington-based The Toro Co.

"The Foundation's critical mission of encouraging environmental awareness and water conservation is integral to the stated purpose of The Toro Co.- which is - to help customers enhance the beauty, productivity and sustainability of the land, " said Toro president and CEO Rick Olson.

Wyland addressed an audience that included fifth-graders from Ridgeview Elementary School in Bloomington and students from Andover High School, who were instrumental in convincing the mayor of Andover to support the challenge and helping that city win the challenge for small-size cities in 2016.

Much of the Wyland Foundation's outreach is to teachers and students. "If we want to protect the environment today, let's talk to the adults," Wyland said. "If we want to protect the future, let's talk to the kids."

Since 2014, Toro has been partnering with Wyland on a number of projects including the National Mayor's Challenge and educational initiatives at schools and children's hospitals to raise awareness of water conservation and the global impact that local actions can have. They've donated products and services including work on living garden projects including one at a Dallas elementary school, a prize winner from the 2014 National Mayor's challenge.

Wyland used the event this week to promote other initiatives including "Rolling down the Mississippi River," a month long trip by the foundation's mobile learning center along the Mississippi to promote and protect the health of a vital watershed.