HOMER, La — Water conservation is important, and students across Louisiana are learning how to save the state's water supply thanks to programs from the LSU AgCenter.

Programs such as the Claiborne Parish Water Festival (May 1-2) at the Lake Claiborne State Park near Homer are helping LSU AgCenter agents get the word out about water awareness.

The purpose of this festival was "to increase awareness of the need for water conservation and environmental stewardship in youth," said Robin Bridges, an LSU AgCenter agent in Webster Parish. The participants all were sixth grade students from the area.

"We're doing this in an effort to create a cleaner world and sustainable natural resources in the future," Bridges said, explaining similar educational events are offered by the LSU AgCenter across the state.

During this two-day camp, the students were divided into eight groups. The various groups then rotated through a series of 30-minute activities designed to increase their personal awareness of the need to conserve and protect the quality of surface water and groundwater.

The activities included: "It's Alive" by Bill Owens of the LSU AgCenter, an activity that demonstrated the microscopic populations that live in water and how these creatures are affected by what humans do; "Water Whys" by LSU AgCenter agent Mimi Stoker, which demonstrated how and why water environments change by season, temperature, pH, turbidity and weather action; and the "Amazing Water" exhibit hosted by LSU AgCenter agent Gary Stockton, which is used to teach the action of water over the land and its effect on the environment.

The students even got to see how it was when water was carried from a well or waterway to be used in homes or businesses. Todd Sewell, of the D'arbonne Soil and Water Conservation District, was in charge of "The Long Haul" game, which demonstrated how much water humans would use if the water still had to carried from a well.

Jeroderick Jones, a 12-year-old student from Homer Junior High School, said this game taught him about how much work it would be if water was still collected in buckets and hauled away to be used.

"We still get most of our water from a well," Jones said. "But we have faucets that we can just turn on and get the water that way. This (hauling water) is a lot of work."

Jones said the activities held during the 2003 Water Festival taught him a lot about the importance of water.

"I know we need to conserve water for future generations, because if we don't start conserving water now, one day we may not have enough for everyone to use," he said.

In addition to those activities, other educational activities held during the Water Festival included an explanation of how water can affect environmental decisions, which was presented by water specialist Bill Branch of the LSU AgCenter.

Branch used the "Enviroscape" model to show how water can have an effect on the decisions that are made concerning water and the environment.

Ben McGee of the U.S. Geological Survey also talked to students about what happens to water that soaks into the ground, and LSU AgCenter agents Dora Ann Hatch and Teresa Price explained how decisions made by humans affect the water in our world in their presentation called "The Sum of All Parts." Finally, Chuck Jones, a Louisiana Parks and Recreation naturalist, demonstrated the natural effects of water as a force of nature at the "Nature of Water" stop in the series of educational sessions visited by the students.

The 2003 Claiborne Water Awareness Festival was hosted by the LSU AgCenter in conjunction with the Claiborne Parish School Board and cafeteria staff, Mount Olive Christian School, Claiborne Academy, the Claiborne Parish Watershed District, Lake Claiborne State Park staff, the Claiborne Parish 4-H Foundation and Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

For more information on water conservation and other environmental topics, as well as the variety of educational programs offered by the LSU AgCenter, go to http://www.lsuagcenter.com

A. Denise Coolman writes for the LSU AgCenter (318–366–1477 or dcoolman@agcenter.lsu.edu.)