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Press Release (July 6, 2020)
Category: Education Program


Contact:  Marianne Butler, Watershed Education Director

Solano Resource Conservation District and City of Benicia Public Works partner in engaging local students on water resources   

Benicia, California (July 6, 2020): The City of Benicia Public Works Department and the Solano Resource Conservation District (Solano RCD) partnered earlier this year to initiate new educational opportunities for Benicia’s fourth and fifth grade students. These new opportunities are a part of the city’s rejuvenated Benicia Water Education Program, where local students learn about Benicia’s water resources. As a result of this partnership, additional Benicia students now have the opportunity to participate in several free water education based field trips every year visiting the water treatment plant, wastewater treatment plant and Lake Herman.

In an early phase of the program, fourth graders from Mary Farmar, Matthew Turner, and Joe Henderson elementary schools visited the Benicia Wastewater Treatment Plant. Wearing safety goggles and buzzing with anticipation, students curiously examined microscopic creatures being displayed on a screen in the treatment plant’s lab. A wastewater operator later revealed that students were looking at activated sludge containing microscopic waste-eating organisms as they broke down sewage. Students also toured the plant, met laboratory technicians and wastewater operators, and saw first-hand how wastewater is made safe enough to be released into the Carquinez Strait. 

The Wastewater Treatment Plant tour follows an in-class lesson where students create a water filtration system. These fourth graders think like engineers as they design and build a model to mimic the first process of water treatment. The lesson correlates with the Next Generation Science Standards and brings home the message that students can be stewards of our water resources.


“The Benicia Water Education Program provides the next generation of leaders and scientists the opportunity to become stewards of their local waterways and learn the importance of protecting our valuable water resources,” stated Marc Bautista, Water Quality Supervisor for the Benicia Public Works Department. “Our partnership with Solano RCD supports Benicia students by providing valuable educational experiences that cover water from source to sink, conservation, and protection both in the classroom and at city facilities.”  

Benicia’s fifth graders were scheduled to attend two field trips, one to Lake Herman Recreation Area to learn about drinking water resources and their local watershed, and the other to the Benicia Water Treatment Plant to learn how water is made clean and safe enough for drinking and other household uses. 


“If it weren’t for COVID-19 related school closures, this would have been the first year that every fourth and fifth grader in Benicia would have toured our water and wastewater treatment plants,” said Kyle Ochenduszko, Deputy Public Works Director. “Hopefully our videos and photos can provide an adequate substitute for the public until we can, once again, invite tour groups back to our facilities.”


This spring, 304 fourth graders participated in the in-class lesson, with 180 of those students touring the Wastewater Treatment Plant before the countywide shelter-at-home order closed schools. In lieu of live lessons and field trips, Solano RCD developed distance learning resources featuring videos and virtual tours. These resources are now available for anyone who would like to learn more about Benicia’s water and municipal services on the Solano RCD’s website under Benicia Water Education. 


Funding for the Benicia Water Education program comes from the City of Benicia Public Works Department. Solano RCD works with multiple partners to provide students from elementary through high school with learning experiences in the watersheds in which they live. Benicia’s third graders also participate in Solano RCD’s Watershed Explorers program and its sixth graders participate in the Suisun Marsh Watershed program. Additionally, several Benicia High School biology classes participate in the district’s Solano County Biomonitoring Program every year.


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