June 1st, 2023

Young students during the first day of the annual Peterborough Children's Water Festival on May 30, 2023 donned lab coats and investigated various tests on liquids to understand the concept of acidity in water. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

Young students during the first day of the annual Peterborough Children’s Water Festival on May 30, 2023 donned lab coats and investigated various tests on liquids to understand the concept of acidity in water. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

By: Lili Paradi, Communications Manager, GreenUP

Looking up on a rainy day, you may see a blanket of grey enveloping Peterborough. From a cloud, a single raindrop can travel for kilometres before ending up somewhere familiar like our tap, garden hose, or laundry machine.

While the water cycle may be something that we learned at school, many of us forget about the vast and incredible journey each drop of water takes again and again.

As the GreenUP team finalizes programming at the Peterborough Children’s Water Festival, we are thinking about water in creative ways that may even captivate your own inner child.

Let’s use our imagination to pretend we are single drops of water, traveling through the cycle. Where do we begin?

We are formed in that same grey cloud, a nimbus cloud, a cloud created through the process of condensation when water vapour, primarily from the oceans, rises into the atmosphere. We see more and more droplets just like us joining the cloud, making it bigger and bigger, until the prospect of precipitation is near.

Suddenly, without warning, we fall. As we parachute through the atmosphere, we look towards our destination: Nogojiwanong/Peterborough, the place at the end of the rapids.

During the first day of the annual Peterborough Children’s Water Festival on May 30, 2023, Candace Clark from Otonabee Conservation showed students how they can monitor water quality by observing and counting the types of critters and bugs that live in the water. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

During the first day of the annual Peterborough Children’s Water Festival on May 30, 2023, Candace Clark from Otonabee Conservation showed students how they can monitor water quality by observing and counting the types of critters and bugs that live in the water. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

Our excitement increases as we realize that the City of Peterborough and Peterborough County have over 15 watersheds that make up the greater water system. Where will we land? The Jackson watershed, perhaps, the Harper Creek watershed? Or the Otonabee catchment?

We watch some of our droplet peers land, on farmland, on asphalt, some in wonderfully biodiverse pollinator gardens. Water droplets that land in areas without trees and root systems know that they might end up as part of a flood. The droplets that land near a road accidentally pick up hitch-hiking pollutants like fertilizers and road salt. Together these droplets and their undesirable companions find their way into the watershed as we watch on.

We, however, are lucky enough to land as surface water in the Otonabee catchment, somewhere north of the Otonabee dam. Fortunately, we land directly in a rain garden! This garden was built by an empowered Peterborough resident specifically to absorb and naturally filter water. We are lucky to avoid collecting any runoff and sediment hitchhikers like our peers. We droplets are experts at carrying whatever we find through city storm sewer systems to local waterways.

Flowing on, we absorb into the soil of the rain garden and slowly make our way into and down the Odenabe/Otonabee River. We pass threatened and endangered species such as brook trout, northern map turtles and monarch butterflies. We pass more native species like shrubby red osier dogwood, ebony jewelwing damselfies, and amphibians like spring peepers, all of which are more common to us. We even pass a gaggling loon, laughing in joy at the sparkling river system!

As we approach the calm shoreline near the Riverview Park & Zoo, sheltered by willows and red cedar, we see some of our droplet peers collected by the Peterborough Water Treatment Plant, ready to flow out of community member’s sprinklers, dishwashers, and showers.

It looks like we’ve reached our destination: the riverside home of a turtle nesting area near Riverview Park & Zoo. We are just within reach of the Peterborough Children’s Water Festival, an annual celebration of all things water.

During the first day of the annual Peterborough Children’s Water Festival on May 30, 2023, elementary school students participated in the Sponge Bog Frog activity centre (led by students from St. Peter Catholic Secondary School) to teach students how pollutants in water can harm frogs. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

During the first day of the annual Peterborough Children’s Water Festival on May 30, 2023, elementary school students participated in the Sponge Bog Frog activity centre (led by students from St. Peter Catholic Secondary School) to teach students how pollutants in water can harm frogs. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

Around us, children are learning about cultural perspectives of water, or nibi in Anishinaabemowan.

As a water droplet, we feel celebrated and honoured.

At the festival, knowledge about water flows freely. Nibi is celebrated in all forms as children (and their trusted adults) learn about the human impact on water, whether it is through cultural perspectives, science & technology, and themes of protection and conservation.

Soon, we droplets feel the pull of the warm weather and know that evaporation is coming. As we look up, we see a cloud forming, and know that we’ll travel this journey again.

We water droplets grew old a long time ago, and have traveled this journey many times over, growing accustomed to the changes in health of the water system.

Fortunately, for the sake of the next generation, the community members of Peterborough, and the health of our waterways, we won’t take for granted how precious the route of a water droplet is and know we will tell our tale for many more cycles.

The meandering stream that runs through Ecology Park and Beavermead Park, both freely accessible public spaces nestled alongside the alcoves of Little Lake in Peterborough where you can regularly see ducks, turtles, and other wildlife using the water. There are two ducks sitting at by the water in this photo (Photo: Bruce Head / kawarthaNOW)

The meandering stream that runs through Ecology Park and Beavermead Park, both freely accessible public spaces nestled alongside the alcoves of Little Lake in Peterborough where you can regularly see ducks, turtles, and other wildlife using the water. (Photo: Bruce Head / kawarthaNOW)

The Peterborough Children’s Water Festival (PCWF) is a long-running event for students in Grades 2 to 5. This year, in 2023, the festival took place on May 30th and 31st. The PCWF works in partnership with educators, water quality and quantity specialists, community volunteers, conservation groups, industry and government to inspire understanding and connection to water. For more information, check out https://pcwf.net/ or contact Natalie Stephenson, Director of Programs at GreenUP at natalie.stephenson@greenup.on.ca