MONMOUTH - Free water testing, food, entertainment, art projects, well drilling demonstrations, more than 1,000 involved students and many other activities will be part of the Children's and Community Groundwater Festival on Friday, April 12, at Western Oregon State College.

This festival, which is the featured event of the Oregon Groundwater Awareness Week proclaimed by Gov. Kitzhaber from April 8-14, is free and open to the public.

Student activities will be held early in the day and everyone is welcome at the Community Festival from 4-8 p.m., at the Werner College Center, corner of Monmouth and Church Street in Monmouth.

"Creating public awareness of the need to protect groundwater is one of the key goals of the Groundwater Festival," said Loretta Brenner, coordinator of the Groundwater Community Involvement Program in the Oregon Water Resources Research Institute at Oregon State University.

"Contaminated groundwater is difficult, costly, and sometimes impossible to clean up," Brenner said. "The festival offers tips on what home owners, farmers, businesses, students and communities can do to reduce the chance of contamination. It should be fun and the activities relevant to both rural and urban residents."

With a "hands-on" emphasis in the children's part of the festival, about 1,000 Oregon students and teachers will learn about water resources and pollution prevention as they tour a well drilling rig, create a group art project, take a TapWater Tour, and build a groundwater model for their classrooms. Winning entries in the student groundwater poster competition will also be on display.

Other activities during the community part of the festival include

  • Free testing of well or tap water for nitrate pollution
  • Well maintenance, wellhead protection and drilling displays
  • Booths, displays and workshops on prevention of groundwater contamination, septic systems, water conservation and other topics
  • Door prizes, entertainment and a pasta buffet from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m., cost $3.

More than 70 percent of Oregonians are at least partially dependent on groundwater for their drinking water, Brenner said, and in many rural areas groundwater is the only drinking water source.

Nitrates from fertilizers, gasoline, industrial solvents, household chemicals, pesticides and bacteria all pose threats to the state's groundwater supplies, she said.

Information on Oregon's Voluntary Wellhead Protection Program will be featured at this event and community representatives are encouraged to attend.

The festival co-sponsors include the Oregon Groundwater Community Involvement Program, Oregon Children's Groundwater Festival, and Western Oregon State College.

Activities are supported by several other state universities, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Health Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Extension service, water conservation districts, water resources departments, city and county governments and other agencies.

Anyone who is interested in getting a free water test for nitrate contamination should:

    1) Collect the sample the day of the event and keep it cool.
    2) Rinse out a clean pint size container or jar several times and let air dry.
    3) Let tap water run for several minutes to flush out the line.
    4) Fill the jar and cap tightly.
    5) Attach a label to the jar including name, address, phone number; township, range and section numbers found on property tax statements; and whether the water is from a private well or public water supply.

More information on water testing or other activities can be obtained by contacting Brenner at the Oregon Water Resources Research Institute at OSU, telephone 541-737-4022; or Julie Magers at the Children's Groundwater Festival, telephone 503-725-8288.