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Students take on water challenge

High schoolers participate in six-month long project organized by Castaic Lake Water Agency

Posted: May 5, 2009 9:58 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2009 6:00 a.m.
More than 240 local students seized a chance to learn about water conservation and earn money for college this year as the Castaic Lake Water Agency hosted its first Water Challenge Scholarship program.

The winning team from Saugus High School, known as the "Saugus Droplets," was awarded $7,000 in scholarships for an on-campus water-saving drought-tolerant planter.

Participants Kelsey Kotler, Nicole Janossy, Ariana Chedravi, Daniel Leary and Chris Russell learned about irrigation and water use in the Santa Clarita Valley's dry climate.

The students, who documented their project on YouTube, created an informational brochure that includes water-conservation tips and highlights the importance of drought-tolerant plants in our semi-arid climate.

"I learned a lot working on the water challenge project and didn't know very much about drought-resistant plants, so I was really interested in the research," Kotler said. "At the end of the project when we finally had the drought-resistant plants in the planter on campus, we all stepped back to take a look and it was so rewarding to see all of our hard work come together."

Canyon High School seniors Chris Margono and Sabrina Amaro tested water quality and the health effects of plastic additives in vinyl shower curtains. The project won them second place and a $4,000 scholarship.

"My partner and I built an apparatus that would simulate a shower and how (hot) water would contact with the shower curtain," he said. "Then we took the samples and analyzed them in a machine."

Along with running tests, Amaro used the skills she picked up from Advanced Placement Statistics to determine that between 20 to 40 percent of Santa Clarita Valley residents use vinyl shower curtains, he said.

While the team was able to run its own experiment, the experience taught Margono something else.

"I really learned never to give up," Margono said.

A total of 74 projects were entered by 244 students. The winners received their awards on April 28.

The winning projects will be on display at water agency's open house on Saturday.

Throughout the six-month project, students regularly updated water agency education staff about their progress. Students also attended a speakers' night, where local water experts and environmental organizations educated them on the Santa Clarita Valley's relationship to water issues.

The hope was for students to focus on the importance of water as an increasingly valuable resource, said Dan Masnada, general manager of Castaic Lake Water Agency,

"As a result of the experience and preparing projects, they're a lot more sensitive to the value of water (and the) need to conserve water," he said.

The agency's water-education program has been in place for 15 years, Masnada said.

The agency attempts to do more than encourage conservation. It also attmpts to, "establish a water-use ethic that people will have for the rest of their lives," he said.


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