Do you remember what water tasted like as a kid? For me, it’s a very vivid taste; and, I’m surprised about how many memories of drinking water I have! There were rules, of course. You couldn’t drink the water in the pool, for instance. But, you could drink water from the garden hose, metallic and minerally, as long as you waited for it not to be face-scaldingly hot from sitting in the sun. You could play in the monsoon-flooded streets, a crazed desert child throwing her chanclas with abandon into the rare raging flow, but definitely don’t drink that water. And, maybe (according to mom, anyway), don’t hold your mouth open waiting to drink the rain, because pollution or acid or something. I knew about pollution from school and TV, and knew it was bad, but I didn’t think it would ever affect me.
Turns out it does affect me. It affects all of us. When I say “pollution,” I mean more of a layman’s conglomerate of human-influenced problems the planet is facing. It can seem monolithic, but I rest easier knowing people of all stripes can – and are – leading the charge to find solid solutions to our problems. Sonoran Institute is helping to lead that, too. Our vision of a sustainable future for the West is based on collaboration and adaptive solutions. Where I fit in is getting that message to the public, meeting people where they are to (hopefully) get them excited about how they can contribute to this mission.
November 12 was the Envision Tucson Sustainable Festival at the YWCA, a chance for exhibitors of all stripes to celebrate sustainable living. I had the pleasure of operating a booth with Amanda Smith, Sonoran Institute’s Program Associate working on the Santa Cruz River. Our goal was to spread the word about the work we’re doing on the Santa Cruz and tell people how they can get involved. We wanted to hear what people have to say about the river, and hosted a water tasting. But, this was not just any water – this was Pima County’s own “AZ Pure” advanced purified water sourced from Agua Nueva Water Reclamation Facility. As you may already know, it’s thanks to (non-drinkable!) effluent (treated waste water) that we have flowing portions of the Santa Cruz and are seeing riparian habitats bounce back. AZ Pure takes this a step farther and makes reclaimed water drinkable. Learn more about the process.
We wanted to show people that the same innovations and collaborations that are helping restore the Santa Cruz are providing yet another way to conserve our precious desert water. To do this, visitors compared and rated the taste of tap water, bottled water, and AZ Pure water. Of the approximately 50 people who took the taste test, a large majority actually preferred the AZ Pure water, or couldn’t tell the difference! This matches the results of other taste tests that have been done around the community. Although, one person did say it was “funky” – I choose to believe that’s a good thing – and one child kind of scrunched up his face and wouldn’t respond. I think he was maybe just being contrary?
I hope our taste testers created a tangible (if small) memory of AZ Pure water, and that it helps them imagine their role in a more sustainable future. As citizens we may be asked one day to vote on whether to use this water in our cities. Or, we might find products like it for sale at our grocery store and make choices about the types of products we buy based on our familiarity with innovations in sustainability. It is Sonoran Institute’s mission to connect communities with the natural resources that nourish and sustain them, which means we want to help people be aware of such innovations, and make informed decisions. Together, we can make choices about water that will have the best outcomes for the future of the West.
Blog Post By: Elise Christmon, Development Coordinator