It’s ‘groundwater ahoy!’ at the ‘Aquifer Adventure’

See how faux pirates teach valuable lessons about Portland’s other source of drinking water … 

It’s a beautiful day for the 2013 Aquifer Adventure, held in Pirates Cove – also know as the Portland Water Bureau Well #9 property – along the Columbia Slough.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Volunteers who present the late summer outdoor adventure called the Aquifer Adventure have learned from past years’ experience to be ready rain showers. But, this year, September 14 was warm and dry – perfect for such a family-oriented event.

Hundreds of folks took advantage of the sunny day and came out Northeast Airport Way into the Wilkes neighborhood, to enjoy the event.

Checking folks into the 2013 Aquifer Adventure is volunteer Pirate Queen Slammin’ Shelley Varner.

Dastardly Doug Wise – known the other 364 days of the year as the Portland Water Bureau (PWB)’s Ground Water Protection Program Manage – said he stepped into the role previously held by Rebecca Giesen, who ran the program for many years.

“Our Well #9 is just across the street from the Portland Water Bureau’s Groundwater Facility, which is the ‘nerve center’ of our drinking water well-field in the Columbia Slough area,” Wise reminded.

New Portland Water Bureau Ground Water Protection Program Manager Doug Wise helps Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Columbia Slough Watershed Program Coordinator “Sloughsan” Sue Barthel give T-shirts as prizes to children who collected a “magic bead” from all of the education stations.

“We are celebrating the importance of groundwater as our secondary drinking water supply, at an annual event we call the ‘Aquifer Adventure’,” Wise grinned.

Again this year, the Portland Water Bureau partnered with the Columbia Slough Watershed Council to produce it, along with about 50 volunteers. “We work very closely with the Watershed Council who helps with this. It’s a great collaboration, because guests also get to learn more about the Slough.”

Zade Park gets a visual demonstration of how an aquifer works from Mt. Hood Community College geology instructor Daina Hardisty.

Cindy Soriano follows instructions, building layers of treats that become a “deliciously-eatable aquifer”.

Adilene Torres learns how much water she uses during a 10-minute shower, by carrying gallon jugs of water around this course ten times.

“A lot of people in the area have heard about the Bull Run Watershed; that’s our primary city water supply,” Wise told East Portland News. “But, a lot of people don’t know we have a second secondary drinking water supply – the Columbia South Shore Well Field.

“And, this water is right below our feet,” Wise added. “We protect it differently than we protect the Bull Run Watershed. But, it’s just as important, because it allows us to maintain Bull Run as an unfiltered water supply, taking over during ‘sediment events’.”

On the path to the Columbia Slough canoe ride, event volunteer Capt’n Nathan Barrett greets guests Leo and Sara LaBarge.

Columbia Slough Watershed Council Executive Director Jane Van Dyke helps a group of adventurers get into canoes.

With the aid of trusty guides, the Aquifer Adventures explore the Columbia Slough.

This popular event is far from being a classroom lecture, Wise commented. “We know that most 10-year-olds learn better though action. So, we have all sorts of hands-on activities here for them to really experience the processes of groundwater movement, and understand where that water comes from, and how that groundwater system works.”

And part of the fun, he continued, is that it’s a pirate themed event. “It’s unique in all the world, we believe, by being the only pirate-themed groundwater festival!”

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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