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Waterfest being held to raise water quality awareness

Jessica Ruffin

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A message in a bottle became more than just a plot for a romantic movie for UA graduate geography students one day in March.

Students were participating in a winter cleanup of a lake with professor Mary Wallace Pitts, and one of them found a bottle with a note inside it from a third grade class. The letter asked the person who found it to visit Mrs. Scott’s third grade class in Berry.

However, Pitts said there was a slight problem with that request — Scott was retired and the student who wrote the letter has now graduated from college.

“It was really neat because part of what we’re trying to do is educate the kids that everything we do affects water quality,” Pitts said. “This bottle was a perfect way to show them that because this bottle came from their school.”

In order to educate schools in Alabama and the rest of the community about water resources, Pitts will assist with the Lake Tuscaloosa-North River Waterfest event this weekend. The Waterfest will consist of two events: the Watershed Festival on Friday, May 4, and the Lake Nicol cleanup on Saturday, May 5.

Pitts, who serves as the coordinator for the North River Watershed Management Plan, is excited to be able to spread awareness and knowledge about drinking water in the area with the festival on May 4.

“The festival is a one-day event geared towards school children who live in the North River Watershed, and members of the public who live in the watershed or who get their drinking water from Lake Tuscaloosa,” Pitts said. “Groups of school children from various area schools have pre-registered for this free event.

“They will be guided through a series of educational hands-on components and have an opportunity to learn directly from a number of local, state and federal agencies.”

Pitts said she hoped the people in the Tuscaloosa and North River communities would learn from the event more about water quality and how to protect their own drinking water.

Scott Sanderford, who is also working to put on the event, believes this knowledge is crucial for everyone in the community to know.

“If you live, worship, shop, go to work or school, eat or play anywhere in the greater Tuscaloosa area, then there is a good chance that the quality of our water resources is affecting your quality of life,” Sanderford said.

Sanderford also encouraged people from the community to help out with the cleanup on the following day.

“This is the fourth year we have had the cleanup,” Sanderford said. “Previously, we have had 500-plus volunteers, and participants clean out more than 50,000 pounds of debris from Lake Tuscaloosa.”

Participants will be provided with all equipment excluding boats, which they will have to bring themselves. They will also be fed lunch and be given a T-shirt following the clean up.

Sanderford also said that because Alabama Outdoors has teamed up with the UA Outdoor Recreation Program, participants would be able to paddle their own kayaks and canoes or learn how to do so from on-site instructors. However, according to Sanderford, there is another incentive to participating in either of the weekend’s events.

“Registered participants in the Watershed Festival and lake cleanup will have opportunity to enter a raffle for great prizes such as a framed Basil Ede print, a football signed by Coach Saban and gift cards from Athlete’s Foot,” Sanderford said, adding that other retailers will be offering prizes as well.

Elizabeth Smith, a junior majoring in public relations, said she was interested to learn about an event that is specifically catered to water quality education.

“The quality of water in the Tuscaloosa area is so important because it literally affects everyone,” Smith said. “I think it’s great that an event is being put on specifically to showcase the importance of water quality.”


Event Details:


Watershed Festival

Friday, May 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

MaryAnn Phelps Activity Center


Lake Nicol Cleanup Day

Saturday, May 5 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Rock Quarry boat landing, Binion Creek boat landing, Lake Nicol Park boat landing (non-motorized only)





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Waterfest being held to raise water quality awareness