Where does your food come from? What about your water? And what happens to the water after you use it?
Many of us can’t answer these questions. Food comes from stores, water flows out of the tap, and after that flush, who knows where our wastewater goes?
Educators and communicators passionate about helping people learn about water systems gathered for a day of sharing. On Feb. 28, the King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) education team hosted a regional Wastewater and Stormwater Education Summit at the Brightwater Center.
Attendees came from agencies, utilities, governments and non-profits that all want you to be able to answer those questions about water.
There is good reason for all of us to be savvy about water systems. Between the mountains that bring us drinking water and the waters our treated waste flows to are hundreds of miles of pipe, dozens of pump stations, plants treating drinking water and wastewater. These systems are a vast invisible part of the watershed, funneling the flow of rivers and aquifers through our homes, businesses, schools; in other words, everywhere there is a faucet and a drain.
We affect that invisible watershed every day, along with the visible watershed upstream and the waterways downstream.
Increasingly, governments, agencies and utilities see a critical need to visualize that invisible watershed for people. Educating people targets problems that affect water systems at the source. And when people learn to treat the systems better – use less water, keep pollutants out of storm systems and trash out of toilets – the environment benefits, too.
The summit brought people together to share their experiences and advice with other educators and communicators. Presentations and workshops highlighted the benefits and challenges involved in water systems education:
- Designing and managing interpretive displays,
- Educating about stormwater infrastructure,
- Engaging diverse communities,
- Leading memorable treatment plant tours, and
- Incorporating education in capital project outreach.
One attendee commented, “The summit speakers successfully shared lessons-learned and program ideas that inspired me to revamp some of our outreach strategies.”
In between workshop sessions, attendees made connections and shared ideas. “It was a great networking opportunity with other utilities, grant recipients, and communicators. The hands-on components were great!”
The summit helped even seasoned communicators see outside of their part of the invisible watershed. Said one, “It gave me some ideas on how to incorporate info about wastewater into my stormwater education.”
After a day of making new connections, sharing, and learning from each other, one educator said, “This was fantastic! I was blown away by information presented.”
Commented another,” There was so much useful information presented at the summit, and I’m excited to use this information to better reach the variety of audiences we have visit us.”
Gatherings like the Brightwater summit can only make our educators and communicators a stronger, more effective force to help people see and understand the most important element of a healthy life: water systems.
The Wastewater and Stormwater Education Summit was made possible through funding from the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Presenters were from Pacific Education Institute, Nature Conservancy, LOTT, Earthcorps, Nature Vision, IslandWood, ECOSS, Snohomish Conservation District, Sustainability Ambassadors, Seattle Public Utilities, City of Bothell, and King County WTD.