Students learn about water during Columbia Basin Trust-supported field trip
Nineteen grade eight science students from Nakusp Secondary School recently enjoyed a day touring the community and area during a Know Your Watershed field trip.
Know Your Watershed is a Columbia Basin Trust program that helps students understand where their water comes from, how it is used and where it goes after it is used. The program is delivered in schools around the Basin by Wildsight.
“Since 2010, Know Your Watershed has been getting Basin students out of the classroom and into their communities, giving them concrete understanding of our water systems,” said Rick Allen, Columbia Basin Trust Program Manager, Environment. “Through hands-on activities, students gain knowledge and inspiration to take care of our precious water resources, which helps support the well-being of the region into the future.”
The day was divided into three parts, led by Know Your Watershed instructor Marcy Mahr.
First, with the help of Hans Dummerauf of the Arrow Lakes Environmental Stewardship Society, the students tested water quality at Gardner and Kuskanax creeks. They learned about factors like turbidity (is the water clear, or are there sediments and organics mixed in that may make it hard for fish to breathe?), dissolved oxygen (do fish and aquatic insects have the oxygen they need?) and levels of nitrates and phosphates (are there nutrients available for aquatic plants to grow?).
The students played a game of Macroinvertebrate Mayhem; by pretending to be stoneflies, mayflies and caddis flies, they learned how these insects can indicate the presence of a healthy ecosystem, and how water quality can change with the addition of toxic chemicals, silt from eroding stream banks or aquatic invasive species. These in turn can affect the healthy functioning of a creek’s ecosystem. They were then able to view some of these creatures first-hand thanks to Dummerauf’s bug-catching skills.
The second part of the day focused on water treatment. Joined by Nakusp Public Works staff Rachel George and Warren Leigh, the students visited the Village’s facilities on Upper Brouse Road, which supply most of the community’s tap water. Here they learned how creek water passes through coarse filtration socks to remove large debris like leaves, sticks, frogs and snakes. Next the water moves through a micro hydro generator and the electricity produced is sold to BC Hydro. The water is then processed with fine filtration, chlorination and UV radiation, and stored in two reservoirs: an above-ground one that holds one million gallons, and an underground one that holds 200,000 gallons. This water is gravity-fed into the Village’s water infrastructure to serve residential and commercial needs.
The community’s other source of water is groundwater located in an aquifer under the baseball fields near the arena. This clear, clean water is pumped up through two wells and doesn’t require treatment. It is used to supplement the water stored in the reservoirs on Upper Brouse Road, which on hot summer days can become very low due to high demand. The students also learned that water from Arrow Lakes Reservoir wouldn’t be a feasible source, due to the expense of both pumping it and disinfecting it.
For the final part of the day, the students visited the sewage treatment facility on 13 Avenue NW. The big hit was standing on the grill above the odorous “muffin monster,” which grinds up solids that have been flushed into the sewer. The students toured the three lagoons, which enable bacteria to digest organic materials in the sewage and allow solids to settle out. Once the liquid goes through the final steps in the treatment plant, the water—which is now the same quality as pool water—is released deep into the lake. In the future, the Village hopes to reclaim this water to use in spaces like parks and cemeteries.
The week after the trip, Mahr wrapped up the program by revisiting the students in their classroom.
“We played a game called Watershed Jeopardy, which is a fun way for students to review what they’ve learned and discuss what they can do to take care of water—both in terms of protecting water quality and conserving water quantity,” said Mahr. “They come to realize it’s everyone’s job to ensure we have healthy water in our local creeks and watersheds. Stewardship is something we all can do.”
The Trust supports a variety of education and awareness projects across the Columbia Basin. To learn more about these projects, including Know Your Watershed, click here.
Wildsight works locally, regionally and globally to protect biodiversity and encourage sustainable communities in Canada’s Columbia and Rocky Mountain regions. Learn more at wildsight.ca.