International College To Host Water Symposium In May

International College will host the first annual “Every Drop Counts” Water Symposium at its North Naples campus next month.

The weeklong event, which runs from May 4-10, is intended to educate and inform Southwest Florida residents about the importance of water conservation. The symposium’s overall goal will be to reduce water consumption in Collier County by 10 percent within a year.

International College is honored to help educate the public on water conservation and facilitate that learning process through this event. We want to be good stewards and take an active role in preserving the environment,” said Melody Hainsworth, vice president of information resources and services for the college and a Water Symposium steering committee member.

County Commissioner Jim Carter, Water Symposium co-chair, said he wanted an event that would be informative yet fun in order to reach people of all ages.

“The entire community must come together sharing a single goal – increasing awareness of the need for water conservation,” he said. “ The difficulty is that people see all this water around them and think of Florida as a water playground, so there are no compelling concerns that water is finite. We need to do a better job of conserving the water now in order to keep water costs down and protect the future of our children.”

The average Collier County Water Department household uses about 200 gallons of water per person per day, said Paul Mattausch, director of the Collier County Water Department and Water Symposium steering committee member.

Carter said International College was a logical choice to host the event because of its contributions to the community and because of the launching of its Environmental Management Masters degree program this summer.

Kris Thoemke, Ph.D., chair of International College’s Environmental Management Program, will moderate the Leader Days panel discussion on Water Conservation and Conservation Issues Friday, May 10. Scheduled keynote speakers are Trudi Williams, of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District, and Henry Dean, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.

“There’s no question that there is a water problem in this area and it’s only going to get worse,” Thoemke said. “We’re not going to solve the water problem in this area until there is an across-the-board understanding among community leaders and the public about the seriousness of the water issues and how they can collectively work to address those issues.”

As part of the weeklong event, Collier County officials will unveil the one hundred families selected to participate in a year-long contest and study. They will be monitored and evaluated on water conservation, ideas to conserve and techniques used to conserve. Families able to conserve the most water over the year will be awarded prizes ranging from family vacations to one free year of water.

Interested families must sign up by Wednesday, April 17. To qualify, the family must be a Collier County water and sewer customer, have at least one year of water usage history in their current residence and remain in the same residence for the upcoming year. The study is open to renters, and owners of homes, condominiums, mobile homes and apartments. The participating families will be named Friday, May 10.

To sign up for the contest/study or for more information, call Barbara Kerby at 597-1505, extension 7603, or log on to the website at http://www.watersymposium.org. People can also click on the Children’s Art link to vote for the poster they think best conveys a water conservation message. The 11 posters to choose from were submitted by Collier County Schools students.

The schedule of events for the “Every Drop Counts Water” Symposium is as follows:

  • Family Fun Day: From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 4, at International College, 2655 Northbrooke Drive, off of I-75 and Immokalee Road. Free refreshments will be available. Bring the children and grandchildren and participate in hands-on activities, games and exhibits. Activities include a Wheel of Fortune, miniature boat race, rain dance lesson, lessons on creating a “rain stick” and photo opportunities with Melanie the Manatee and Freddy the Alligator.
  • Public Awareness Nights: From 7 to 8:30 p.m., May 8 and 9, at International College. Renters, homeowners and business owners will have an opportunity to view water-related exhibit booths, listen to keynote speakers, and learn how and why there is a need to conserve water and reduce water bills. The public will have a chance to meet and mingle with policy makers, Collier County Commissioners and other business and scientific leaders. Public Nights are free of charge. Refreshments will be provided.
  • Leader Days: From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 8 and 9, at International College. Each Leader Day will offer educational information and discussions specifically targeted to the interests of government, policy makers, business, agriculture, conservation and science. Speakers and facilitators from throughout the state will participate in lectures, panel discussions and will allow for audience participation. The purpose of these three days is to uncover, define and suggest changes in the way we view and use our water resources.
  • Celebration Award Banquet: From 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., May 10, at the Vineyards Country Club in Naples. Join us to celebrate the grand finale of the “Every Drop Counts” Water Symposium. Entertainer Paul Todd is scheduled to perform. School program awards for Collier County students also will be announced.
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