Water conservation is an ethical challenge. Integrating ethical water education into our programs instills a sense of stewardship, ownership, and responsibility in our youth, shaping behaviors and inspiring solutions to our water resource issues. Each year, 4th-grade students across Coconino County are invited to participate in a Water Ethics Contest. The contest, which began in 2010, is sponsored by the Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership (a branch of the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council) and hosted by Willow Bend Environmental Education Center. The mission of the Council and Partnership is to facilitate and implement sound water resource management and conservation strategies on the Coconino Plateau.
For the contest, teachers provide instruction on water conservation issues extended from the 4th-grade science curriculum, while students demonstrate their understanding through artwork and an essay. Students are motivated not only by their understanding of the topic of becoming an ethical water consumer but also are awarded a prize for their classroom and a poster that will be displayed in community spaces! *
Each year, Arizona Project WET provides teacher professional development to 4th-grade teachers on the water cycle, groundwater, water conservation technology, and watersheds. Emily Melhorn, water conservation specialist for the City of Flagstaff and Coconino Plateau Watershed Partnership (CPWP) committee member states, “The Water Ethics Contest is an important continued engagement with young students on water conservation that utilizes their creativity and passion. As we’ve seen with the Water Festival, encouraging 4th-grade students to deepen their understanding of water issues and to become stewards provides a strong foundation to protecting this resource for our future.” The City of Flagstaff sponsors an APW Water Festival to celebrate learning.
Relating water conservation to ethics, the Council and Partnership state, “Water is life. As individuals and as a community, we take responsibility for our region's water. We value water for its social, cultural, and environmental roles. We have an ethical obligation to manage water and use it in a purposeful manner, recognizing our choices and their consequences. To quote Aldo Leopold, ‘A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.’"
Contest winners are:
- First Place – Ella A (Grand Canyon)
- Second Place – Roslynn S (Grand Canyon)
- Third Place – Carlton, Tatiyana, & Jeremiah (Kinsey)
- First Place – Nadeesh V. (Grand Canyon School)
- Second Place – Bennett W. (Sechrist Elementary)
- Third Place – Kingston K., Aiden M. and Dineh L. (Kinsey)
Contest winners are awarded certificates, a class party, and Water Saver Superhero Toolkits, which include rain gauges, water conservation coloring books, playing cards, reusable water bottles, and a reusable bag that has the winning students’ artwork displayed on them.
Posters are created for classrooms, events, and presentations, and are developed into bathroom water awareness signs. The bathroom signs can be viewed at several public places such as the Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor’s Center, the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, the City of Sedona, Northern Arizona University, Marshall Elementary, and Grand Canyon School.