Mary Ann Van Osdell, Faulk, Lee, Owens, William E.
News Release Distributed 05/09/11
HOMER, La. – Three hundred sixth-graders from seven Claiborne Parish schools heard how certain practices can conserve water at the ninth annual Water Fest held May 5-6 at Lake Claiborne State Park.
One lesson on Mississippi River flooding came from Theron Phillips of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. He said the area from Monroe to Vicksburg flooded in 1927 and told the students that water levels at Vidalia and Natchez, Miss., are projected to be the highest since 1937.
Claiborne is one of 15 parishes that depend on the gradually disappearing Sparta Aquifer. The children heard from Lindsay Gouedy with the Sparta Groundwater Commission that all of the water they use does not come from Lake Claiborne but from 200 feet beneath the ground.
“You can’t go swimming or boating in it,” Gouedy explained. “An aquifer is like a sponge, a mixture of sediment and silt that absorbs water.”
She demonstrated with sand, clay, pea gravel and colored water what disposing oil would look like in an aquifer. “The choice you make on the surface impacts the environment,” Gouedy said.
Phillips used a chalk diagram to explain the route urban storm water takes and the pollutants it encounters. He said fertilizers and motor oil used improperly can harm fish.
LSU AgCenter agent Lee Faulk presented the fertilizer lesson in terms of a watershed, which is an important area of land where water drains. “When not used correctly, excess fertilizer runs off into our watersheds,” he said.
In a water-quality lesson, LSU AgCenter microbiologist Bill Owens let children look through a microscope at bacteria from saliva.
“In other countries, you can’t drink the water,” Owens said. “Ours is safe because we have rules and regulations. If you don’t brush your teeth, those bacteria build up. You have to keep constantly knocking them back.”
Retired LSU AgCenter water resource specialist Bill Branch returned to the event one more time. He demonstrated a flow meter, explained water pressure and gave tips on how to conserve water. These include low-flow showerheads, using a pistol grip on the hose to wash the car or washing it on the grass if the weather has been dry, only washing dishes and clothes when there is a full load and replacing gaskets on leaky faucets.
Branch said that 75 to 100 years ago, families would all bathe in the same tub of water. He said cutting back on water use saves on sewage and energy costs.
Destiny Smith, of Haynesville Junior High School, who takes hour-long showers, said she will now cut back. She said she did not know people re-used water or that the mouth carried a lot of bacteria.
The children were told the average family uses 230 gallons of water a day. As a demonstration, they formed two teams that had to fill a 100-gallon container with lake water using a single bucket and hauling it, relay style. It took them 15 minutes.
Penny Andrews, a teacher at Haynesville Junior High, said this was her third Water Fest. “It is a good hands-on activity that helps students understand where water comes from and how we can best use it,” she said.
The event was conducted by experts from the LSU AgCenter and other state and federal agencies.