Water’s long journey to our taps

Children’s voices filled the hall of the Gaia Center in Kifissia during one of a series of educational events titled «Colors and Scents from the Cycle of Time» that was organized by the Friends of the Goulandris Natural History Museum association. One Sunday last October was dedicated to the theme of water – a dwindling resource that is being increasingly polluted. The event, «For a Glass of Water,» was aimed at children aged 8-15 and presented them with information, visual aids, activities and experiments with water, its journey to our taps and how to use it wisely. This highly interesting and well-structured program was organized by a volunteer group headed by Anna Margaritouli and composed of Marina Makridou, Vassiliki Mertzani and Lina Nikopoulou. It was attended by approximately 30 children ranging in age from 4-13 – an impressive turnout considering it was voluntary – and even a few parents were present in the hall. The event kicked off with an introductory presentation by chemists Vicky Malotidi and Iro Alabei from the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO). 1 percent drinkable They explained in simple terms that there is no life without water, that fresh water, which can be used by humans, is a precious natural resource. Of the Earth’s water, only 3 percent is fresh. Of this, 2 percent is concentrated at the two poles and just 1 percent is available and clean enough to drink. Using visual aids and graphs, the two scientists mapped out water’s journey. They explained how water is constantly on the move, that it is always the same in quantity though it changes in form – to rain, hail, snow and ice. They showed how various human activities pollute the planet’s water resources and degrade the soil so that it is unable to absorb water, leading to flooding. The speakers talked about the water of Greece and the neighboring Mediterranean and Balkan regions, as well as that of the rest of the world – of places where people and animals suffer and perish for lack of water. Next followed a series of experiments. Volunteers answered the questions posed by the young attendees. The most popular of the experiments were the Magic Handkerchief, which did not burn when wet, and the Cup of Greed, which demonstrated how when we use up more water than we need, we lose the amount we had in the first place. The most interesting and inventive part of the event came next: A vote on the best-tasting water. After being asked to taste four different types of water (tap, bottled, brackish and sparkling), the children unanimously agreed that tap water was the nicest (though in some areas of the world, tap water cannot be consumed). Bottled water was voted in second place. The event ended with a brief summation of what the children had learned, which made it clear that they all more or less understood that a good deal of water is being wasted every day, and that they were familiar with various conservation methods. The last question of the day, «Why did we discuss water today?» was aptly answered by 12-year-old Nicholas: «So we can save water and tell others.» Ten-year-old Maria-Ioanna, on the other hand, obviously disappointed by the thoughtlessness she witnesses around her, asked for advice: «What should I do at home when I ask people to turn off the tap and they don’t listen to me?» «Keep insisting as much as you can,» was the reply. The organizers The non-profit association Friends of the Goulandris Natural History Museum was established in 1978 with the goal of building closer ties between the museum and its public. After 25 years of continuous activity it currently boasts over 2,000 members, including individuals and organizations (such as schools, private enterprises and associations), while family membership is also now available. The group has also been publishing a quarterly newsletter, titled «The Friends of the Museum,» since 1985. The association is run entirely by volunteers and the activities it organizes are aimed at cultivating – in both young and old – a sense of love and respect for nature and the environment, as well as promoting conservation and research. The Goulandris Natural History Museum is located at 13 Levidou, Kifissia, tel 210.808.6405, tel/fax 210.808.3289.