Virginia Household Water Quality Program broadens impact through youth initiative

water running our of a kitchen facet

Through the program students learn how to collect and analyze water samples.

More than 60 high school students and 4-H members from Carroll, Floyd, and Amherst counties had an opportunity to spend a day at Virginia Tech to expand their understanding of water quality, its associated health factors, and water sampling through the youth component of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program.

The program, a collaborative effort between Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech, provides a hands-on learning experience in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering’s Water Quality Laboratory. Students analyze water samples, learn how to interpret the data collected, and review the results from a health perspective. In addition, guest lecturers address related topics such as groundwater, well construction, food safety related to water quality, and the many career opportunities in fields related to water.

“I like the idea of students being able to visit the campus, see our facilities, and experience a day in the life of a scientist or a lab technician,” said Erin Ling, Extension associate and coordinator of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program. “I think that is really powerful. Of course, I hope they gain an understanding of their connection to groundwater, well water, and stewardship and why it’s important that we understand it and take care of water supplies as a resource.”

Ling hopes to increase funding so she can offer the program to a few more schools each year. “We tie our programming to the Virginia Standards of Learning and the curriculum the kids are already being taught in the classroom,” said Ling. “We think it is making an impact because students take a pre- and post-test and do better on the post test, and their parents take a short test after learning from their kids about the water quality and well maintenance, and show an understanding of key concepts.”

The program was made possible with support from the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, which provided funding for students and their families to have their water samples analyzed as part of the program.

The Virginia Household Water Quality Program provides practical information to homeowners about maintaining and protecting private water systems such as wells, springs, and cisterns. Drinking water clinics are offered through local Extension offices in about 60 counties per year. The clinics provide affordable water testing, an interpretation of test results, and information about maintaining private water systems and dealing with water problems. For more information, visit www.wellwater.bse.vt.edu/.

Written by Jenna Sudol, a Virginia Tech senior majoring in public relations.

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