Orange County schoolkids will soon get their feet wet in water policy.

In a first-of-its-kind partnership just in time to commence the new school year, Moulton Niguel Water District is partnering with Orange County Coastkeeper to launch an innovative water education program that will get kids involved in water conservation and environmental protection. Through Coastkeeper’s W.H.A.L.E.S. program, Orange County middle schoolers will go on field trips to a local watershed in Moulton Niguel’s service area, take part in interactive learning activities and even conduct a water quality test of their own.

“This type of hands-on water education empowers students to manage their water use at an early age, while learning about the importance of water efficiency, sustainability, and protecting the environment,” explains Moulton Niguel Water District Board President Donald Froelich. “By taking kids to local watersheds, they can see the plants, animals and marine life impacted by urban runoff and develop a real understanding of how our water system works.”

Open to all middle school classes in the Moulton Niguel Water District service area, the program provides busing for students, teachers, and class chaperones as they explore local watersheds and learn how to secure a sustainable water future.

“We are excited to collaborate with the Moulton Niguel Water District to expand water education programs into more schools in Orange County,” stated Garry Brown, executive director and CEO of OC Coastkeeper. “MNWD is already a leader in environmental stewardship, and we look forward to working together to further this mission.”

Coastkeeper’s W.H.A.L.E.S. program, which stands for Watershed Heroes: Actions Linking Education to Stewardship, was conceived as a way to make it easier for students to understand water efficiency and sustainability. Each field trip can accommodate 40 students, but can accommodate for larger groups over multiple days, and focuses on the connection between water efficiency and water quality.

Compound Water Savings: 8.1 Million Gallons     

By starting at an early age, Moulton Niguel predicts that the program will yield millions of gallons of water savings compounded over a lifetime. Take brushing your teeth. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that turning off the tap while brushing your teeth saves 8 gallons per day. If a middle schooler develops the right habit of turning off the tap, it could continue for years to come. That’s 8.1 million gallons of water over a lifetime for a group of 40 students – the number of students expected to participate in each field trip.

Stepping Out of the Classroom to Discuss Outdoor Water Use and Urban Runoff

Additionally, by offering field trips outside of the classroom, students will have the opportunity to grasp the importance of efficiently watering outdoors to prevent urban runoff. For example, reducing your sprinkler timer by one minute can help save 80 gallons of water, and transforming your landscape to a California friendly garden can help save 40 gallons of water a day.

Moulton Niguel Water District sees the youth education program as a natural extension of its successful water conservation efforts. During the drought, the district helped its customers replace nearly 5 million square feet of turf – about 25 percent of all the turf that was removed in Orange County. That achievement helped seal its reputation as the “water agency that thrived during California’s drought.”

“Rain or shine, we’re still identifying new ways to be water wise,” says Froelich.

For more information about the organizations’ collective efforts to provide water education and protect our natural resources, visit Moulton Niguel Water District at www.mnwd.com and the Orange County Coastkeeper at www.coastkeeper.org.