Never too young to learn about saving water

Water, water everywhere - from rainy weather to the naturally beautiful coastline of Suffolk, water is all around us. At times it is hard to understand why it is so important to conserve this ‘blue gold’. To put things into perspective, the earth’s surface is 75 per cent water. But only one per cent of this is actually drinking water - and this tiny percentage needs to supply over six billion people, the world over.

The East of England is the driest region in the UK, receiving less rainfall on average each year than Jerusalem. And it’s becoming increasingly vital to conserve our water. New housing developments significantly increase demand for our limited resources. Couple this with climate change, which is likely to bring dryer summers and warmer winters, and we begin to understand the importance of water conservation.

As one of the custodians of the natural environment in the East of England, Anglian Water is in a unique position to promote water as a vital resource and highlight other related environmental issues. By involving primary school children in its education programmes, the water utility is able to influence the next generation.

Education at the heart of business

Anglian Water’s education programme is increasing in popularity year on year, with over 35,000 children taking part in 2009. Schools can chose to visit an on-site Education Centre – some of which are located on sewage treatment works! - or to host a school visit from a Mobile Education Centre. Both of these are entirely free.

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The primary education programme uses teaching sessions based around the national curriculum for science and geography to cover topics such as recognising water as a vital resource, promoting water efficiency, and the importance of drinking water for health and hydration. And when the Mobile Education Centre rolls into town, transparent toilet cisterns help demonstrate just how much water we use at home. One of the key objectives is to show how all families can effectively reduce water consumption without making life altering changes.

The education centres, located at Chelmsford Wastewater Treatment Works, as well as Corby and Leighton Linslade, offer children a first hand experience of the sights and smells of an operational sewage processing site. These sites have full classroom facilities and interactive sessions include ‘X factor’ style voting on water usage. Visits for classes are intended to inject fun into learning, and to bring water conservation down to earth.

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A successful start

The Eco Schools Award is an international programme that guides schools on a journey towards creating a more environmentally sustainable learning environment. It provides a framework to help schools embed a number of core environmental principles into the heart of school life. Those engaging with the Eco Schools programme often get in touch with Anglian Water as a way of kicking off the journey in their school – the education programme at Anglian Water includes a ‘Waterwise’ school audit.

This audit allows children to take a hands-on approach to their school’s water efficiency, with children leading the audit supported by staff. For instance, they will locate and record water meter data to monitor usage, and then develop an action plan to help improve water use at the school.

Successful action plans enable children to get involved. Some will simply design a poster campaign or set up school water monitors to keep an eye on usage in bathroom areas, while others will go so far as proposing higher cost fixes, such as installing sensor taps for hand basins.

Water Heroes

And for the child in all of us, there’s always Captain Splosh! The superhero is Anglian Water’s resident waterwise waste-fighter, who uses games, activities, and even his own song to bring the message home for schoolchildren. He’s travelling the region at the moment on a mission to convert us all to a more waterwise way of life – and who knows when he’ll land in Suffolk next!

Usually, the last word on the success of any teaching programme should go to the children who take part. But not so for the children of the Stanley Drapkin School in Steeple Bumpstead, who recently visited the Chelmsford Wastewater Treatment Works to take part in a day’s activities.

When their teacher was asked how they got on, the response was that the children were “engaged, and unusually quiet!” It seems that Captain Splosh’s secret powers extend beyond water conservation, and well into the attention spans of children who remain fascinated by the wonders of water, and the fundamental role we all have in its future conservation.

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