Where does Bend water come from?

May 13, 2015
Where does Bend water come from?

Cascade Middle-schoolers learn about how city water works

By Jasmine Rockow / The Bulletin / @JasmineRockow

Where does the water pouring from the bathroom faucet come from? Where does toilet water go after it’s flushed, and what happens to it once it goes down the drain?

Cascade Middle School sixth-graders can answer these questions and more, thanks to a new program called “Our water system: a journey through Bend.” The Environmental Center partnered with the city of Bend to teach kids where their water comes from and what they can do to conserve it. The Environmental Center offers the program for free to public and private middle schools and high schools in Bend.

“We want students to know that they are connected to the natural world,” said Kirin Stryker, sustainability educator at the Environmental Center. “They affect their environment, and they are affected by it.”

Students in Matt Killebrew’s sixth-grade science class learned Monday morning what it takes to move clean water into, and dirty water out of, their campus in southwest Bend. Parent volunteers stood at important water-related spots around campus, and small groups of students visited each station to learn about the school’s place in Bend’s greater water service landscape.

Deanna Cranston and Lisa Veis, moms to Kelly Cranston and Lucy Veis , stood under a tree in Skyline Park and used laminated precipitation maps to compare (while it rained) the quantity of precipitation in the valley west of the Cascades, to the High Desert east of the Cascades. They talked about how important the snowpack is to future drinking water supplies. Unable to see the mountains due to cloud cover, students pointed school-issued iPads in their general direction and snapped a photograph.

Several feet away, Stu Sumner, father of student Abby Sumner, used rocks in a soda bottle to show how lava rocks clean, filter and store snow melt that eventually finds its way to the Deschutes River.

Alana Cole, 11, said she’s learned it’s important to keep pollutants out of the water system and to conserve water because of the low snowpack.

“There’s a huge aquifer underneath us,” she said. “Water comes from the Cascades and the snowpack. It’s where we draw most of our water from.”

Calista Songstad, mother of Gunnar Songstad, said she was glad to come help. Gunnar is the oldest of her four boys, and it’s not often she’s asked to help in his classes.

“The kids are asking good questions,” she said. “They knew what the reclamation facility was. I was impressed.”

Toward the back of the school building, Stryker showed kids the main water intake. A large map lay on the ground showing the different water lines leading into and out of the school, which also supply surrounding homes and businesses. Kids giggled as she described how the city uses chemicals like chlorine to kill fecal bacteria in the water. Then they snapped another photo, this time of the main water intake, and headed inside.

Marshall High School students participated in the program this year, and all Cascade sixth-graders are going through the program now. The Environmental Center wants to determine what grade is best-suited to the curriculum, Stryker said. The program consists of four lessons and a field trip. Classroom lessons cover watersheds, conservation, sewer systems and the reclamation plant, and how water is used by individuals and businesses for irrigation and recreation.

The Bridge Creek Intake Facility, the Outback Water Treatment Plant and the Water Reclamation Facility are all under construction, which prevented the sixth-graders from taking field trips to those facilities.

“It would be a more visceral, aromatic experience if the kids could go to the reclamation facility, but we can’t go into hard-hat areas,” Stryker said.

Instead, the kids will walk to Farewell Bend and Riverbend parks next week to learn about stormwater. Stryker hopes students can visit the Bridge Creek and sewage wastewater treatment facilities next year.

“This class is important because we take water for granted,” Kacie Stafford, 11, said after class Monday.

Harper Justema, 11, nodded enthusiastically and said she is now less likely to waste water by dumping out her water glasses and taking long showers. Zach Jepson, 11, said he likes learning about how other people solve water problems now, so he can help change things for the better when he’s older.

— Reporter: 541-383-0354, jrockow@bendbulletin.com

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