Project WET activities help natural resource manager boost local water knowledge and improve community relations

Lance Tully, NWNA Natural Resource Manager for the Southeastern United StatesLance Tully, Nestle Waters' Natural Resource Manager for the Southeastern United States A seasoned professional geologist with experience in hydrogeological investigations and ground water management, Lance Tully has no problem getting technical. Lance is Nestlé Waters North America’s Natural Resource Manager (NRM) for the Southeastern United States, which means that he bears responsibility for managing withdrawals of spring water, reviewing long-term monitoring data from spring sites, overseeing watershed and habitat protection on Nestlé Waters’ properties and leading community outreach efforts. It’s that last responsibility that requires Lance to shed a little of his technical side in favor of offering water information in ways that are accessible and easy for the communities where Nestlé Waters is located to understand. Project WET has helped him do just that.

“The beauty of Project WET is the way complicated concepts such as groundwater, watershed protection and the like are distilled into fun, interactive, educational activities and materials,” Lance said in a recent email interview.

Lance is based in South Carolina, but works throughout the southeastern United States, including Nestlé Waters’ Macon County facility in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee. He spoke with Project WET about his years of experience leveraging Project WET as a Nestlé Waters employee to help educate communities about the importance of water stewardship and the role of water as a natural resource.

Project WET Foundation (PWF): How are you currently using Project WET?

Lance Tully (LT): In April, we celebrated the grand opening of our new Chesterfield County bottling facility in McBee, South Carolina, with a community open house. Approximately 1,000 community members attended and helped us celebrate the event! One of the activities we offered for attendees was Project WET’s “The Incredible Journey”. The Project WET Festival was well attended and folks of all ages proudly wore their water cycle bracelets the rest of the day! We also handed out Project WET children’s activity booklets to visitors who participated in the activity.

Later this year, we plan to visit our two local elementary schools to facilitate a Project WET activity (Blue River) for their 4th grade classes. We did something similar last year. We’ll also be discussing the importance of healthy hydration, watershed protection, recycling and handing out children’s Project WET activity books associated with those concepts.

Finally, in Tennessee, our Macon County facility held a “Make a Splash” water festival last fall. We have held similar festivals at that location over the course of the last several years. In the most recent event in Macon County, several hundred students from local elementary schools participated.

Lance Tully is Nestle Waters Natural Resource Manager for the Southeastern United States "I feel this 'hands-on' teaching methodology utilized by Project WET resonates extremely well with students and helps them retain and understand concepts around water." PWF: How does Project WET help you and other Nestlé Waters employees explain water as a natural resource?

LT: The beauty of Project WET is the way complicated concepts such as ground water, watershed protection and the like are distilled into fun, interactive and educational activities and materials. For example, several years ago at Crystal Springs in Zephyrhills, Florida, I participated in the Project WET activity “Macroinvertebrate Mayhem”. The activity demonstrates the effects of water quality on macroinvertebrate populations by playing a game of tag! The students had a blast, and it provided a vehicle to talk about the importance of recycling, conserving water and protecting watersheds in order to maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems. In some of the other activities I’ve led, students collected and analyzed data, allowing them to see the effects of their actions in real time. I feel this “hands-on” teaching methodology utilized by Project WET resonates extremely well with students and helps them retain and understand concepts around water.  

In addition, I know that some of my most memorable experiences in school were activities conducted by special guests or field trips. These “out of the norm” events offered something different, and as a result those memories have stuck with me over the years. Project WET festivals combine those things, because they are highly interactive and usually involve a field trip for the students to some offsite location. The exciting and fun atmosphere of the water festivals keeps the students highly engaged and attentive. 

Michigan NRM Arlene Anderson-Vincent does The Incredible Journey activity at the McBee open house Michigan NRM Arlene Anderson-Vincent does The Incredible Journey activity at the McBee open house PWF: What impacts have you seen in the community due to your work with Project WET and water education?

LT: There are many positive effects that result from bringing Project WET to communities. In communities where we have hosted water festivals for several years, there is a great deal of anticipation and excitement at the schools for Project WET events. Younger students hear about previous water festivals from teachers and older siblings or friends, so it is something they greatly look forward to each year. Often we involve local high schools and other community partners to help out with Project WET events; for example, in South Carolina students from the McBee High School FFA chapter [FFA is an inter-curricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership] helped with activities at elementary schools in 2015. This gives the FFA students an opportunity to work with and share knowledge with younger students who look up to them. Some of the most passionate high school volunteers are those who participated in Project WET events when they were elementary school students.

Project WET also helps Nestlé Waters strengthen relationships with communities. Furthermore, partnerships gained via Project WET often lead to future collaboration. For example, local FFA involvement in 2015 led to another collaborative project with the FFA for our factory grand opening in South Carolina in 2016. Project WET activities and the water education that we do in general—such as site tours, presentations at meetings, community open houses and so forth—enhance Nestlé Waters’ reputation as a leader in water stewardship.

Finally, Project WET events draw many Nestlé Waters employee volunteers and offer an invaluable opportunity to forge camaraderie within our organization. Employees feel a sense of pride to be a part of a team and a company that invests in their community and recognizes the importance of water stewardship. Many employees volunteer year after year and are equally as excited as the students are to be a part of Project WET!

PWF: What future plans do you have to use Project WET?

LT: We are looking forward to expanding our use of Project WET in South Carolina. I’m hopeful that in 2017 we’ll hold a Make a Splash festival where we expand our efforts to additional schools in Chesterfield County. We want to be able to reach more of our future leaders. Looking ahead, as we have future open houses at our facilities, we hope to incorporate Project WET activities into the events.

 

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