Water Talk at Meadowlark

By: Mark Court, Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems

First published in Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems magazine, The Wyoming Connection

Who said work isn’t fun? I enjoy the many projects and challenges that come with this line of work. One of my favorites, though, is when I get to go into our schools and talk about water with the kids. Afterall, they are the future water and wastewater plant operator, distribution and collection system operators, engineers, regulators etc. In fact, they are the future that will try to figure out how to fix the mistake created by previous generations.

That is exactly what we did. I asked to speak about water and wastewater issues that impact our daily Meadowlark Elementary School with Ms. Kristen Behrends and her sixth-grade class at Meadowlark Elementary School in Cheyenne.

At the beginning of the class, I demonstrated what happens when you flush different grades of paper down the toilet by using jars filled with water and mentioned the many things that come through the headworks at wastewater treatment plants. I had my volunteers place their paper samples in the jar, secure the lids and shake them up for a few seconds. They seemed quite amazed that only the toilet paper disintegrated from the project.

We spent time discussing groundwater and surface waters in Wyoming, as well as where Cheyenne gets its drinking water. We discussed how much water Wyoming is allotted per drainage each year and that the rest of our water flows into our neighboring states for their many uses. We talked about how much water it takes to grow specific crops that we produce here in Wyoming. We discussed how landfills and wastewater issues impact our water sources as well. Finally, we briefly talked about radionuclides and trichloroethylene that are concerns in Wyoming’s groundwaters.

These issues were, of course difficult to discuss at a level that eleven and twelve-year-old kids could understand, but they were very engaged with the topics.

There were questions, and we had lots of fun. Ms. Behrends was glad that I was able to come in and to visit and asked if I could do another talk during the fourth quarter. She also stated that by me teaching in her classroom, it gave her discussion points on water for future classes.