On Apr 14, 2018, I participated the Great Race for Saving Water in Palo Alto. This is the fifth Earth Day celebration hosted by city of Palo Alto. It is a 5K run/walk and kids 1K fun run to “raise awareness about water resources, conservation and environmental health”.
The race would start at 9am. From the early morning, people started streaming into the start venue, Palo Alto Baylands Athletic Center. Once there, a lot of exciting things were already waiting.
A water truck – H2O On the Go
You have seen food trucks, but have you seen a water truck? One of the first thing that would catch anyone’s eyes was a water truck, Santa Clara Water District’s “H2O to Go”.
As Santa Clara Water District describes on the truck’s website, “Standing 11 feet tall, the water dispenser-on-wheels holds approximately 500 gallons of chilled tap water; about enough to fill 8,000 servings in 8-ounce cups. Under a roll-out canopy on each side, residents can fill up at any of the vehicle’s 14 dispensers, seven on each side. The cold, refreshing water is from the district’s water treatment plants, which supply Santa Clara County with clean, safe and high-quality water. Water from our treatment plants consistently meets or exceeds all state and federal regulations, which continually grow more stringent. Drinking tap water also helps to protect the environment. With enough water to replace almost 4,000 water bottles, the water truck can save the earth from 105 pounds of plastic waste”.
There are so many benefits drinking from tap like these in the truck versus bottle. A big portion of bottled water actually is just tap water; while the tap water costs consumer almost nothing ($0.004/gallon), bottled water costs 300 times more, at $1.22/gallon. Despite all these, the bottled water consumption has increased tremendously in the last several decades. Per capita consumption increased 3 fold from 9.8 gallons per person annually in 1991 to 30.8 in 2012.
One huge issue stemming from this massive consumption is pollution. Globally, humans buy 1 million plastic bottles per minute; however, 91% of the plastic is not recycled. A huge number of plastic bottles end up in landfill, and a big part of them go into ocean. According to Ocean Conservancy, plastics are believed to threaten at least 600 different wildlife species. 90% of seabirds are now eating plastics on a regular basis; by 2050, that figure is expected to rise to 100%; At that time, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans. To manage the issue, Europe is planning to ban 10 single use plastic items that make up for 70% of all litter in EU waters and on beaches. While we all need to drink water, we definitely do not need more plastic bottles.
Everyone would enjoy some cold, refreshing water, especially after running at a race. Before the water truck, water supplied to thirsty runners at a race like this would be just boxes after boxes of bottles. As there are over 30,000 organized races and close to 17 million race finishers in the US a year, suppose one runner at least consumes 1 bottle, the races in US alone will generate 17 million bottles, with a big portion of that ending in landfill and oceans! The Great Race was estimated to be attended by 1000 people. By providing a water truck, the race organizer and Santa Clara Water District removed at least 1K bottles from this event. Kudos to them for quenching the thirst for the runners, and doing a great thing for the environment!
Here, no bottle was found at the bins:
A leaky toilet
At 9am, the race started. In the race, one could not help but notice something that was rather unusual – a running “leaky toilet”; to be more concise, someone who was wearing a costume of a toilet. Why a toilet? Well, it carried a rather big message about water.
According to Peninsula Press, “Leaky toilets are just one source of common water wastage in home, since one out of five homes may have a toilet in any given year, according to Ora Chaiken from WaterSmart Software. She reprised her role as the “running toilet”, which participants tried to catch during the 5k and 1k fun runs.”
Leaks are a big source of water waste. Up to 50% of households will experience some kind of water leak in a given year; according to EPA, household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons annually nationwide. enough for more than 11 million homes’ annual water use! As water leaks can waste so much water, we should do everything we can to prevent and fix it immediately when it happens.
We all understand the importance of using high water efficiency products, like the high efficiency toilet shown here, to save water. However, if leaks happen, any savings can be wiped out, and more. It is good that we use these products, like the toilet, or water efficient irrigation such as drip ; equally important though, is that we can prevent, detect and fix any leaks quickly when they happen.
Plant a garden with native plants
There were quite a few partner booths and activities at the festival. Here, a landscape designer was giving a presentation about landscaping with California native plants. Compared with a lawn, a garden with drought tolerant and native plants can save water significantly. In addition, these plants can provide habitat for pollinators like bees, birds and butterflies, providing rich biodiversity and supporting a healthy eco system, which a lawn can not. A garden can also add so much color and textures to the space, making it attractive and adding the curb appeal for the house.
Outdoor landscaping accounts for half of the urban water use in California, which is a lot. To save water, replacing a lawn with a water efficient gardens is one of the most effective ways. Plant some wild flowers, save water and help out the bees and birds. They will surely be grateful!
Kids Played a Big Part
When one came to the festival, they would find this sure was an event not just for adults, but also for kids. There were kids everywhere, from little babies to teenagers; There was an 1K fun run just for kids. For a kid, there were so many fun things to look and do. The smokey bear! The eagle!
With global warming, pollution and other environmental issues, our globe is facing some serious challenges, which will just become more serious if not managed well. This makes it really important for kids to be involved early, to become educated in the topics about earth, environment and sustainability.
When today’s kids grow up, they will inherit the earth with all the issues and challenges; what they learn now can prepare them for the challenges then; furthermore, if they understand the importance today, they can join join adults and do something to prevent, reduce or slow down the impact of these issues. For example, our water supply from snowpack might decline by 60% in just 20 years. Facing such a future, kids should learn today how precious our wate is, and what they can do now to conserve water. By chasing the “leaky toilet”, they will understand the significance of preventing water losses like leaks. When they grow up, in a world that will have less stable water supply than today, they will fully appreciate the value of water and try to come up with ways to use it well. Out of the many things they will do, they might design a better toilet that have less leaks, and save more water.
Win at the race
Well, beyond all the fun activities, this still was a race. I was just planning to have a good time and did not prepare anything special for the race. After the race started, I dashed through the 5K. When they announced the winner for each age group, to my happy surprise, I won 1st place in my age group.
Luckily, in our long race towards a clean and sustainable earth, not just one person, or a group, a country, or one generation can be the winner. All of us can. If we come together and work together, if we bring our kids along, we will all win in the end. The sky will still be blue, water still be clean in the next generation, and the next.
The Great Race for Saving Water has been a very fun and educational event, blending in sports, games, plants, animals and many more to give everyone an abundant dose of fun and information. It is truly a Great Race for Saving Water.