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National Drinking Water Week Outreach Program

5/3/2010 11:09:49 AM

Tennessee Aquarium education outreach coordinator Bill Haley at Alpine Crest Elementary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                    Contact: Thom Benson 423-785-3007

Aquarium Education Outreach Programs Focus on Sustaining Resources
During National Drinking Water Week May 2 – 8, 2010

Chattanooga, Tenn. (May 3, 2010) – Most Tennessee Valley residents take safe drinking water for granted, but like the rest of America, they are concerned about water quality. According to a Gallup Poll released in March, water pollution is the nation’s number one environmental concern. In fact, the annual Gallup polls have shown that pollution of drinking water, pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs and maintaining the nation’s fresh water supply for household needs are issues that have held the top three spots for more than a decade.  “This isn’t surprising since most people understand that less than one percent of the Earth’s water is available for our use,” said Bill Haley, the Tennessee Aquarium’s education outreach coordinator. “Since our supply is so limited, it’s only natural that everyone would want to protect that resource.”

Haley covers a variety of environmental topics while presenting programs in schools, libraries and other venues within 125 miles of the Aquarium. Throughout the year, Haley inspires youngsters to protect freshwater resources through several fun, hands-on activities brought into the classroom. Haley also has a game he has used at Earth Day events and other environmental festivals. Students are asked a question about water usage. They must choose what they believe is the correct answer. “It’s kind of a water bingo game,” said Haley. “Contestants use chips to mark the number of gallons used in daily activities. They have fun while learning that both water quality and water conservation are important to everyone.” Haley says that people of all ages are most surprised to learn that drinking tap water is one of the easiest ways to make a difference at home. “It takes 47 million gallons of oil to produce the plastic used for bottled water in the United States each year. Almost 90 percent of those bottles are thrown away. Ironically, we see too many empty plastic bottles ending up in the Tennessee River, which is our main source of drinking water,” said Haley.

The Aquarium’s education department hopes to improve conservation trends by reaching out to the next generation of environmental stewards. Haley’s programs have been delivered to more than 100,000 people in the past five years with support from Tennessee American Water, the official sponsor of the Aquarium’s education outreach programs as well as environmental programs delivered aboard the River Gorge Explorer. “Both of these programs help to remind hundreds of people on a daily basis the importance of the environment and how to protect our natural resource,” says Kim Dalton, Tennessee American Water external affairs manager. 

During National Drinking Water Week, May 2 – 8, Susan Holmes, Tennessee American’s water quality supervisor, will join Haley in the classroom. They will deliver a joint program to fourth grade students at Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy. Haley will engage the students with his “Build Your Own River” program. The fourth graders will learn what goes on beneath a river’s surface while playing different roles in a make-believe river. Once they discover how water quality is important to aquatic life, Holmes will help the students understand how Tennessee American provides safe water from the river for our needs.  “This type of program helps to educate the students on the importance of protecting the drinking water source in their community,” said Dalton. “We want them to realize where their tap water comes from so they can become the environmental stewards for the future.”  

                                                     Five Ways to Help Ensure Safe Water
1) Conserve. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average household uses 90 gallons of water each day. Homeowners can save up to 15 percent on their water bills by flow restrictors on showerheads and faucets.
2) Fix Leaks. According to the EPA, homeowners pay for 14 percent of water that is never used. It simply leaks down the drain.
3) Reduce. Test your lawn before chemical applications to ensure using the minimum amount necessary to get results.
4) Keep it Clean. Switch to non-toxic cleaning products and make sure to keep excess soap and other residue from running into waterways.
5) Dispose oil properly. According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee’s do-it-yourself mechanics generate more than one million gallons of used oil each year. If it is not disposed of properly, used motor oil can easily get into our groundwater and streams. In fact, it takes only one gallon of used oil to contaminate one million gallons of drinking water.



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