Conservation Unveils “Water-Wise in BR” Website for Groundwater Awareness Week
Baton Rouge – The Louisiana Office of Conservation is unveiling a new website focused on expanding local knowledge of groundwater resources in East Baton Rouge Parish. The website, accessed at waterwise.dnr.la.gov and part of the ongoing “Water-Wise in BR” public education effort that began in the fall, provides detailed information on the Southern Hills Aquifer System, which supplies the Baton Rouge area with both drinking water and water used in industrial processes such as energy generation and manufacturing.
“What we are doing with this site is providing the public with a clear picture of the resource, its uses here in Baton Rouge, and the management challenges that we are actively addressing,” Commissioner of Conservation Jim Welsh said. “We want to raise the basic level of awareness among the general public about the importance of the Southern Hills system and likewise keep people informed about what actions are being taken to conserve this valuable resource.”
Welsh emphasized that a survey conducted in December as part of the agency’s efforts showed significant gaps in public knowledge about the Southern Hills system.
“Only half of the people surveyed correctly identified the source of our drinking water. Others either didn’t know, or thought the source was the Mississippi River or a reservoir system. Three-quarters of the respondents were not aware of any management challenges at all,” Welsh stated. “There’s a lot of room for education.”
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden, in conjunction with the “Water-Wise” campaign, has proclaimed March 10th through 16th as Groundwater Awareness Week in the City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish.
“We need to educate ourselves more thoroughly about our natural resources,” Holden said. “We use 160 million gallons of groundwater a day here in East Baton Rouge. It is a marvelous gift, but one that we must protect. I’m excited to see this effort by the Office of Conservation, and am happy to help focus attention on the issue.”
The website launch and Holden’s proclamation are part of the Office of Conservation’s promotion of National Groundwater Awareness Week, sponsored for nearly two decades now by the National Groundwater Association (NGA). The core mission of NGA is to promote the responsible development, management, and use of water, recognizing that the sustainable use of groundwater resources across the nation is a shared concern.
Conservation public outreach officer Matthew Reonas, coordinating much of the “Water-Wise” effort, said the website makes use of the recent survey as a framework for the site’s content.
“People visiting the site have the option to take the survey themselves, and receive detailed answers as they move through, or they can simply browse specific information panels,” Reonas explained. “We have a strong array of interpretive graphics available to help the public understand the Southern Hills system, its uses, and management.”
Other features of the website include an updates section, where Conservation news will be posted, and an education section for teachers.
“We held a teacher workshop back in February that drew participants from 18 public, private, and parochial schools in East Baton Rouge. We felt it was a good start, but would like to do more training in the future,” Reonas said. “To make classroom-ready lessons easily accessible, we’ve uploaded our specially designed curriculum to the website. It is built to meet state education content standards but utilizes a ‘science in your own backyard’ approach. The focus is primarily 8th and 9th grade earth and environmental science, but the lessons are very flexible.”
The “Water-Wise in BR” effort includes an advertising campaign around the Baton Rouge area over the next several months to encourage citizens to “Be Water-Wise” and make use of the website to educate themselves on the subject. A set of traveling exhibits is also in development, and these will be available for display in public venues on a rotating basis beginning later in the spring.
For further information, visit the website waterwise.dnr.la.gov or contact:
Matthew Reonas - Education and Public Outreach - Office of Conservation - (225) 342-1496, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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