New Evanston water education group will meet to inform on role of Great Lakes

Ben Winck, Assistant City Editor

Evanston residents don’t have to be in elementary school to learn about the Great Lakes after a new grassroots water education group starts up this fall.

Clare Tallon Ruen — founder of LakeDance, a separate water education group — is working with the Evanston Parks and Recreation department to create a grassroots water education group, meeting for the first time on Oct. 15.

The group, which has yet to be named, will hold meetings and facilitate activities centered on educating adult Evanston residents on the importance of clean water and the Great Lakes watershed, the term used to address all five lakes and their surrounding rivers. Ruen, the founder of the group, said the new Great Lakes group will discuss similar topics while thinking of new ways to preserve the lakes.

Evanston residents should better understand the importance of the lakes, said Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th), who serves as president of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, a group that works to improve the city’s sustainability and environmental friendliness.

“We live right on the edge of Lake Michigan, so it’s a hugely important resource for us locally and for the whole region,” Revelle said. “There’s a lot that we can learn and do both individually and by encouraging our policy makers to do the right thing.”

The Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water and are used to supply much of the nation’s water.

Currently, the process of reclaiming water people use is irresponsible and spells a negative future for the lakes, Ruen said.

“The way we’re using it now, (water) leaves the lakes permanently,” Ruen said. “Every time it rains, it leaves the Great Lakes Basin through the sewer system.”

The new group will meet Oct. 15 at the Lagoon Shelter on the lakefront. The meeting will discuss water quality before holding a conversation with Steph Smith, vice president for operations for the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Organizers will also incorporate the Pipes and Precipitation program, a state-funded curriculum in its third year that allows elementary school students study the path water takes from surrounding lakes to their homes. The chance to offer similar classes to an older audience can help engage adults in protecting the lakes, Ruen said.

“All of the public schools in Evanston participate in Pipes and Precipitation,” Ruen said. “The idea for the adult class is to take some of those classes and offer them to grown ups. I feel like there’s interest in some watershed basics.”

Ruen said the meeting will also grant time for attendees to plan what initiatives to pursue in 2017.

Adam Abajian, Evanston recreation program manager, said he’s excited to see what the group does.

“We’re new at this,” Abajian said, “Most of the programs I run with the Lakefill are recreational. But it’s exciting to see this new prospect come up.”

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