Twenty-four years ago, the United Nations designated World Water Day to call attention to a global water crisis. Today, 1.8 billion people around the world lack access to clean drinking water.
In the Central Puget Sound region, where clean drinking water is a given, we don’t face this problem. Water is something we can all forget about as we attend to other things in our busy lives.
Forgetting about the value of our waters is another thing. Our waterways are not just iconic, but the foundation of our economy and quality of life. Imagine if we picked up all the cities and towns in King County from a map and put them back down along the arid I-90 corridor in Eastern Washington. It just wouldn’t be the same without creeks and streams, rivers and lakes, and most of all, Puget Sound, our majestic inland fjord.
On March 25, Brightwater Center , Islandwood and KUOW collaborated to host a celebration of clean water with fun, free activities for families and adults.Brightwater’s celebration slipped in a little education about protecting our waterways along with fun for all ages.
The National Parks Service wants to get Every Kid in a Park
In Washington, our national parks are located in the mountains, where our drinking water comes from, and on the downstream end of the watershed, at the seashore. A White House Youth Initiative aims to get 4th graders and their families out to our national parks. The park service, in partnership with Islandwood, is providing free parks passes for 4th grade children.
Toilet roll art
Far beyond garbage, the toilet roll can be transformed into a work of art. Families turned toilet rolls into multicolored sachets, characters, and even flowers.
Treating the system right
The City of Bothell connected people to the toilet in an entirely new way with a toilet modified as a fish tank. Visitors could flush the toilet- and clog it with rags and wipes- to get a sometimes soggy picture of how we affect the sewer systems.
Treatment plant tours
The next step in the water cycle, after the faucet and the drain, is the treatment plant.
Family and adult tours of the Brightwater treatment plant brought people into a world of giant pipes, pumps, and tanks to learn how their water is cleaned.
They walked the process from start to finish, watching the transformation of water and solids into clean water along the way. Most importantly, they learned how they affect the system. Tour guide Caitlyn McAleavey reminded them every step of the way about the problems caused by tissues, wipes, and paper towels in the wastewater system.
Tour attendees were fascinated by artistic touches in such a large, industrial facility: blessings for the natural products that leave the facility. Brightwater’s public art helps people to visualize and celebrate the clean water, clean air, and rich biosolids produced from our waste stream.
©Janet Tsong, no beginning no end/circle the earth/blessed water/blood of life…, detail, 2011, stainless steel, audio, King County Public Art Collection.
Planting a seed for the future
King County recycles 100 percent of the biosolids from the wastewater process, creating Loop biosolids to enrich the soils of working forests and farms. Loop is further processed into GroCo compost for use in yards and gardens. Enriching the soil sequesters carbon in the soil and promotes growth of plants that take up carbon from the air. Young visitors planted a seed for the future by burying a pea seed in a cup of GroCo compost and watering it with recycled water.
A look inside the salmon
While we reuse some of the cleaned wastewater from the County’s treatment plants, much is discharged deep into Puget Sound. Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery’s Rachel Martin gave visitors a look inside the salmon that swim through our inland sea. She showed them up close and personal how salmon are just like us, with muscles and hearts and a need for clean water.
Young engineers practice building a water system
Building a water system is only half the fun. Splashing around in it as you operate it is the best part. Kids were challenged to assemble pipes to convey water, and then test how they worked.
Keeping leftover medication out of our waters
King County’s Secure Medicine Return Program provides drop boxes and a mail in service for people to get rid of excess and expired medications. The collected medications are incinerated, keeping them safely away from kids and teens — and our waterways. The County’s Local Hazardous Waste Management Program helped visitors find a drop box location on a map and a tablet.
World Water Day presents an opportunity for people who live with clean water every day to celebrate, appreciate, and learn how to protect this precious resource. On March 25, children and adults to celebrate our waters from source to sea as they walked, sloshed, created art, dug in the dirt, and learned that salmon have hearts .