Metropolitan Brings Water Quality Initiative to the Local Level

"We've replaced the traditional tools of learning -- maps, textbooks,
science lab experiments -- with dynamic, interactive lessons that make
drinking-water issues relevant in a young person's world," said Metropolitan
General Manager Ronald R. Gastelum. "We focus on contemporary environmental,
social and political challenges -- like how to balance the benefits of water
treatment with potential health risks -- so that students get an objective
view of current issues."

The new educational program, available at no cost to schools located in
Metropolitan's six-county service area, nurtures a sense of respect for the
vulnerability and fragility of water resources and water quality.

"We want to start the educational process with children so that they can
become involved with decisions made in the public arena about drinking-water
quality," Gastelum said. "Education is a key component of our ongoing
water-quality initiative, which supports activities that ensure Southern
California continues to have a safe, reliable and economical supply of
drinking water. It's our No. 1 commitment to protect drinking water at the
source so you can trust it at the tap."

Underlining the importance of education, state Assembly member Lou Correa
(D-Santa Ana) said that he hopes his constituents appreciate the
particularly high quality of their drinking water and become involved in its
protection and conservation.

"We want people to understand that our tap water is well protected and a
valuable resource," Correa said. "We want children to take pride when they
see water and to know that it's not just a puddle out there, but something
precious."

The curriculum included a dozen learning centers allowing students to
visualize textbook concepts through the creation of projects. There was a
roulette-like wheel of water trivia, art projects that incorporate facts
about water, model making, microscopes and a magic show.

"If the program is as successful as we expect it to be, we will start taking
it to a variety of other schools," said Thom Coughran, Santa Ana's water
resource manager and Metropolitan board member. "Children will learn about
water and become a resource for their families."

According to Russ Donnelly, Metropolitan's manager of educational services,
the curriculum consists of three parts. "Qualities of Water" introduces
basic water concepts culminating in two investigations on water testing and
pollution clean up. "Basic Science of Water Quality" covers eight concepts
and measures related to water quality. "Applying Science to Your Life and
the Development of Public Policy" includes three units - Watersheds and the
Environment, Protecting the Public Health and Water Quality and Rights.

"From the start, the curriculum was designed with a grass-roots appeal,"
Donnelly said, "relying on outside input to guide development. This was the
most widely field-tested curriculum in Metropolitan's educational services
history."

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