WEF's membership newsletter covers current Federation activities, Member Association news, and items of concern to the water quality field. WEF Highlights is your source for the most up-to-the-minute WEF news and member information.

March 2010, Vol. 47, No. 2

Top Story

El Paso Water Utilities Conservation Outreach Shows Real Results

Interactive education center increases public involvement

TecH2O children 1 Small.jpg An interactive educational center focusing on water conservation opened its doors in 2008. The Carlos M. Ramirez TecH2O Water Resources Learning Center includes 16 exhibit areas that combine audio, visual, and tactile learning experiences to engage and inform all ages on the many facets of water management. 

“The exhibits are really amazing,” said Christina Montoya, vice president of communications and marketing at El Paso (Texas) Water Utilities. They incorporate puzzles, games, maps, graphics, fun facts, and educational information to read; native desert animal specimens and sound recordings; microscopes; and gardens. Some examples are the reclaimed-water exhibit, teaching about how wastewater is recycled and used for irrigation; the wildlife and flora exhibit, teaching about animals and plants in the desert that depend on local water resources; the home conservation exhibit, displaying low-flow toilets and other water-saving household installations; and the xeriscape garden, showing how to landscape with native, water-efficient plants.

“It’s a really great facility,” Montoya said. “It’s appealing not only for the children but for the adults, too.” The center focuses not only on teaching about water conservation but also the water cycle and the path that water follows from the sky to the tap, she added. The center uses a traveling exhibit, a sand-based model of the local area on a platform, to show how stormwater flows through the area. The utilities take this traveling exhibit to other outreach events to encourage more visitors to come to the center.
Photo courtesy of El Paso (Texas) Water Utilities. Click for larger image.  

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Water, as Seen From the Moon

A recent spike in water crisis messaging captures public attention

Seeking to raise awareness of the global water crisis, Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil and OneDrop.org (Montreal), arranged through NASA to host a broadcast from outer space last October. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, U2, Tatuya Ishii, and many other big names volunteered participation.

The event, titled Poetic Social Mission, received the exposure equivalency of $600 million for its $6 million to $7 million investment, according to a study by Montreal-based Influence Communication. And it has gone viral: OneDrop.org’s Facebook page has 13,921 fans, and the 2-hour video was downloaded more than “half a million times,” said One Drop Foundation executive Lili-Anna Peresa.

Public water crisis Laliberte Small
Guy Laliberté (front row, second from the left), founder of OneDrop.org, on the October 2009 Poetic Social Mission in space. Photo courtesy of OneDrop.org. Click for larger image.

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Running Wastewater Through Tweets and Blogs

Of all the people Twittering about water in Oregon, Brian Wegener is probably one of the most prolific. He posted 23 updates for the Tualatin River Network in the first week of February, and has 450 people who follow him. He often posts about wastewater issues, and what is his easiest up-to-the-minute source of wastewater news? Twitter. “I use Twitter as a news feed,” he said.

Wegener is in the middle of the new conversation taking place between utilities and their customers through social media. Social media encompass many ways of communicating online that enable many people to comment or add their own material. According to a 2008 study conducted by Cone (Boston), a marketing research and communications company, about 40% of Americans use social media at least once a week. 

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WEF Forms Partnership With NOWRA

The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) and the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA; Madison, Wis.) formed a new partnership that took effect Feb. 1. The boards of trustees of both organizations passed a resolution formalizing a 3-year agreement to collaborate and promote a shared vision of an integrated and holistic approach to water, stormwater, and wastewater management.

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US EPA Office of Water Welcomes New Deputy Assistant Administrator

Nancy Stoner joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water. From 1997 to 1999, she directed the Office of Planning and Policy Analysis in EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. 

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Web Site Resources — Georgia Association of Water Professionals Educates Students

Photo courtesy of Ashley Simeone, Georgia Association of Water Professionals (Marietta).

See this month’s online resource, the Georgia Association of Water Professionals' (Marietta) outreach program, H2Opportunity.    

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