By K.C. Cole
Of The Chickasaw Nation
Chickasaw Nation Environmental Camp participants recently received a firsthand look at the magnificence of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer while gaining a greater understanding of how water is a critical natural resource needing protection and proper stewardship.
A tour of Byrds Mill Spring — where aquifer water bursts to the earth’s surface — and Ada’s Waterworks facility was arranged for campers by the city of Ada.
“We give tours because people should understand the process of how water gets to their faucets,” explained Mike Tuggle of the city of Ada Waterworks. “Children need to realize water does not come straight out of the tap — that (making it available at the tap) is a long and complicated process.”
During the tour, Tuggle explained the process Ada uses to distribute water to the homes of residents.
“We are fortunate in Ada because we have some of the best water around. At the pump station we add chlorine, fluoride for strong teeth, and check pH balances. Water is pumped to the storage towers, then gravity takes over,” said Tuggle, as he offered the 8-12-year-old Chickasaw campers an uncomplicated description of a complicated process.
Ada has one of the best water sources in the country, said David Ellis of the city of Ada.
Ada has some of the purest water on earth.” Ada began utilizing the spring 100 year ago but “people have used this spring since prehistoric days,” Ellis explained.
Byrds Mill Spring is fed by the aquifer and has a water flow of millions of gallons a day. With its location and the use of gravity, Ada is not required to pump water to its treatment facilities. Since 1911, Ada has used the spring as its source of drinking water.
In the past, Byrds Mill Spring was open to the public for recreational use.
“You used to be able to camp and swim here,” explained Ellis. “The city decided to limit access to formal civic groups because the area was getting filled with trash. Now we get five or six groups visiting in the spring and summer, this group has been by far the largest.”
While at springs, Chickasaw campers waded in the cool, refreshing waters as they learned about the habitat the creek provides for plants and animals.
“I liked seeing the teachers explain how important the environment is,” said Daejon Jordon, 12, of Ada. “Science is really cool because it teaches how life works. It was neat to see how gravity makes water flow to our homes.”
The Chickasaw Nation Environmental Camp is a three-day event that allows students to receive a behind-the-scenes look at on-going conservation efforts in the state. In outdoor classroom settings, students learn from professionals in the field.
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said the camp gives students a new perspective on environmental issues.
“The environmental camp allows students to see the fundamental workings of our natural environment,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “It helps them understand why the Chickasaw Nation places a high priority on environmental stewardship.”
The fourth annual camp began at the Pontotoc Technology Center’s outdoor classroom pavilion. Representatives from the United States Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission gave demonstrations on the tools and science the organizations use.
“Our job is not only about environmental monitoring and management,” said Joy Savoia of the United State Geological Survey. “There is a component of community outreach. We want to educate kids that science is fun; that there is field work involved with animals, boats and other gadgets. This will spark their interest.”
Environmental Campers will enjoyed trips to the Oklahoma City Zoo and The Chickasaw Nation Horticulture Nursery.