Raising water/energy nexus awareness among primary school children

A Google Earth image used in the webinar, showing the Blackstairs Mountain, various points of interest on Blackstairs GWS, and Rathnure NS.

Schoolchildren in the supply area of Blackstairs GWS have been learning all about drinking water and climate action, thanks to a webinar devised by the Dŵr Uisce research team in collaboration with the group water scheme.

Dŵr Uisce has been working with the NFGWS and many of its members over a number of years to explore ways to reduce the energy demands of water treatment and distribution. Its work with Blackstairs Group Water Scheme (BGWS) led to the installation of an innovative Pump as Turbine (PAT) energy recovery system that saves energy, money, and cuts down on carbon emissions.

Both parties involved were keen to reach out to children in primary schools served by the scheme — namely Rathnure NS, Caim NS and St. Joseph NS in Donard — to raise awareness of the importance of saving water when it comes to tackling climate change.

While Covid-19 put paid to original plans for in-school workshops and site visits to the water treatment plant, the GWS and Dŵr Uisce team worked together to design an online experience for pupils.

Special webinar

A webinar that explored the water cycle, the water-energy nexus, the history and of Blackstairs GWS, and the innovative role of the PAT system was put together. Fun and engaging activities, along with visualisation tools that helped children to connect with their locality, reflect on their water use and its con-sequences on the current climate crisis were also part of the session.

To replace the site visit, pictures of the GWS water treatment plant were used, and Google Earth projects illustrated the hydrological contribution zone, pipework and other elements of the network in relation to the each of the schools.

The webinar was delivered six times by members of the Dŵr Uisce team and GWS manager, Dympna Skelton, with 111 children and six teachers participating across the three primary schools.

Pupil engagement

There was great engagement and lots of questions from pupils. There were queries about the dimensions and costs of the PAT system, the time required from ideation to implementation, and the replicability of the scheme elsewhere. Pupils were curious to know if there were other PAT systems in GWS networks in Ireland and, upon learning that Blackstairs GWS currently operates the only one, it sparked in the most entrepreneurial children the idea for a potential tourist attraction.

Feedback from participants was extremely positive; they enjoyed the group activities and the use of maps and aerial views for stimulating learning, critical thinking and creating a link with the local area. Their understanding of the water-energy nexus has deepened, as well as their awareness of the climate action potential of water saving habits.

The Dŵr Uisce team thoroughly enjoyed the engagement experience and subsequently delivered a workshop in Ballinabranna NS, County Carlow, focusing on the water/energy nexus. It hopes to collaborate with more GWSs and primary schools in the near future. 

Ballinbranna GWS manager, Gail Fitzgerald, and Dŵr Uisce’s Dr Roberta Bellini, pictured during their visit to Ballinabranna NS.

Dŵr Uisce is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Co-operation programme 2014-2020.