Where does our water come from and how much do we use? Worldwide Project WET teaches children how to answer both of those questions. According to The Nature Conservancy, 77 percent of Americans don’t know where their water comes from.
Arizona Project WET came to Peter Bartenen’s seventh-grade classroom at Orangedale Junior High in the Balsz District last week, part of this year’s effort to teach some 10,000 Arizona students how water gets to their faucets via rivers.
Students conducted a water audit in their restrooms last week to measure the difference between faucets with aerators and without. Students ran the water for five seconds with the old aerator, without an aerator and with a new, improved aerator. They measured three times with each configuration to check for consistency in technique and kept a record of the results.
An aerator mixes air in with the water to reduce the amount of water coming from the faucet. The most dramatic difference was found in the faculty restroom. With no aerator installed on the sink it took just five seconds for 1,090ml — more than a liter — to flow. With the aerator: 445 ml. Nearly 60 percent less! It’s easy to teach a lesson about conservation with numbers like that.
Some skills learned were immediately applicable. Kerry Schwartz, the Arizona Project WET director, was helping a small group of students do their audit. The students had trouble loosening the aerator. They were turning it the wrong way. Schwartz asked, “Ever heard the rule, righty-tighty, lefty-loosey?” They hadn’t, but they listened and turned the aerator lefty-loosey and it came right off. The students had plenty of chances to practice as they were checking the three-faucet hand washing station in the restroom.
Arizona Project WET is being sponsored for the second year by The Nature Conservancy in Arizona. Director Pat Graham believes it is important for kids to understand where their water comes from to foster an interest in saving water and protecting land and rivers in Arizona. He hopes that school boards and families see the benefits of conserving resources without having to drastically shift lifestyles.
Graham was not a detached observer. He helped the kids with the faucets and when the students went to measure the flow in the faculty restroom, he stayed behind to troubleshoot a malfunctioning sensor in the hand-washing station.
He fiddled and adjusted but nothing would stop the water. The sink filled up and overflowed on his shoes. Kerry Schwartz came back and they worked together to stem the tide of water. In the end, duct tape solved the problem temporarily until a repair could be made.
The students will next conduct home water audits and take field trips to rivers to sample water there.