Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF) focuses on developing technologies for the desalination of brackish and impaired groundwater found in inland states. The federal Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation program also aims to educate people about water in general, and desalination in particular.This week, students from nine New Mexico schools had the chance to learn about desalination—the process of removing salt from water—at a research facility dedicated to the topic. Located in Alamagordo, in south central New Mexico, the
Project WET Foundation President and CEO Dennis Nelson traveled to Alamagordo to help with the Discover Desalination Festival—an event focused on outreach to young people from the surrounding area. Dennis and Bureau of Reclamation employee Erika Focht used classic Project WET activities such as "The Incredible Journey" to teach about the water cycle, "Drop in the Bucket" to explain the amount of available fresh water on Earth and "Blue Planet" to help visualize the percentage of Earth that is water.
The students rotated around seven learning stations, including the Project WET activities. Other topics included how freshwater gets salty, how undissolved solids are removed, how dissolved salts can be removed through reverse osmosis or electrical charges, how renewable energy can be used to remove salts and how to manage salty waste.
“The Discover Desalination team was amazing in their commitment to working with children, schools and the Alamogordo community and the staff,” Dennis said. “The activity stations were highly interactive, fun and full of new information. Based on the reactions from the kids, it was clear they loved the event.”
BGNDRF is also a new Project WET host institution and will be offering workshops and trainings in the future. Since 2007, BGNDRF has brought together researchers from other Federal government agencies, universities, the private sector, research organizations, and state and local agencies to work collaboratively and in partnership. Randall Shaw, the facility's director, describes its outreach goals this way:
“The goals of public outreach and education efforts are to increase interest in the field of water science and engineering, dispel myths about water, and promote understanding of the issues surrounding the decisions we all make in choosing where to obtain water and how we treat it on a personal level as well as the community and national level.”
Discover Desalination will be an annual event for local schools, underlining the importance and relevance of desalination to America’s Water Future. Project WET is exploring opportunities to create new education materials for children and teachers on desalination to extend outreach and impact to people across the country.