January 16, 2021

Waterworks Spouts Success

Posted on 23. Nov, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Energy/Environment

Staff from the Gila Conservation Education Center (GCEC) recently completed outreach activities associated with the restoration of Silver City’s Waterworks building.

The Waterworks was established in 1887 to provide the Town with its first municipal water supply.  Located on Little Walnut Road, the stone building had rooms for steam-powered pumping equipment and a 2-story residence for the engineer. The Waterworks building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

In March of 2011, the Town of Silver City was awarded a grant from the Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Foundation to energize efforts to restore the Waterworks building.  Nancy Gordon, a volunteer for the Town, is managing the project. The Gila Conservation Education Center was awarded a contract to assist with student outreach and to implement a pre- and post-project survey.  The survey was designed to assess the effectiveness of outreach activities on public awareness about the Waterworks building and the Town’s municipal water sources.

During the spring semester, GCEC collaborated with Aldo Leopold High School students to conduct a telephone survey. Student’s phoned Town residents who have landlines and asked them if they knew the source of the Town’s municipal water, and whether they knew anything about the Waterworks building. The pre-project survey found that a high proportion of people contacted knew something about the Waterworks building, either what it was historically, or where it was located.

More than half of the pre-project respondents also knew where Silver City derived its municipal water, correctly citing the source as wells, groundwater, or underground aquifers. However, when asked where the Town’s wells were, only three people mentioned the Franks well-field and only one knew that the Town had other wells.

Eleven public presentations were given by Nancy Gordon, GCEC staff and GCEC Board Members Sue Teller-Marshall and Priscilla Mathena.  Presentations reached more than 200 students and adults, including students in Harry Browne’s math class at Aldo Leopold High School, Karen Knight’s biology classes at Silver High School, Nora Love’s 5th grade class at Jose Barrios Elementary, Ginger Masoner’s 5th grade class and Clair Hutchison’s 5th grade class at Harrison Schmitt Elementary, the Rotary Club, Unitarians, and Kiwanis Club.

Waterworks presentations were also given at a Silver City Museum brown bag lunch, the October 11th Town Council meeting, and CATS-TV has been airing a video on the history of the Waterworks for several months.  In September, more than 70 volunteers donated 900 hours to a service project in order to repoint the masonry of the historic building with traditional lime-based mortar.  Following the restoration project and outreach presentations, GCEC conducted the post-project survey.  Similar to the pre-project survey, almost half of the survey respondents knew where the Waterworks building was located on Little Walnut Road (t=0.59, df=49,p=0.55).

However, unlike the pre-project survey, the majority of post-project respondents did not know the source of Silver City’s municipal water (t = 2.29, df = 49, p = 0.03).  Of the 18 people who said they knew where the Town got its water, most cited wells and storage tanks and two people identified the Gabby Hays well-field.  The Town of Silver City obtains its municipal water from the Franks and Woodward well fields and the Gabby Hayes wells, all located southwest of Silver City between highways 180 and 90.  Future water demands for the Town are uncertain, but one study indicates that the Town’s wells will be capable of meeting domestic needs (under a 1.45% population growth rate) for the next 40 years.

The results of the project survey appear to indicate that the public outreach didn’t raise awareness of where the Waterworks is, or where Silver City’s water comes from — at least among people with landline phones.  Future efforts to inform people about the Silver City Waterworks will include a Facebook page and a display at the Silver City Public Library.  You can also receive newsletters about activities at the Waterworks by contacting Nancy Gordon at: aqua@zianet.com.

This article was submitted by Kathy Whiteman, Ph. D., Executive Director  of the Gila Conservation Education Center, 3005 E. Camino del Bosque, Silver City, NM 88061
Office: 575/388-8266

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