While working on a class project last summer, Elgin High School senior Boryana Borisova was shocked to find out that women and girls in developing countries walk an average of 6 kilometers per day to get water.
So Borisova decided she wanted to do something to raise community awareness about water conservation.
"Because we have access to it at the moment, because we have safe drinking water, we don't feel the effect that it has on other people thousands of miles away," she said.
Her resolve eventually gave birth to the first Elgin Water Day, taking place today and Saturday. The event is sponsored by "I Am the Difference," a volunteer organization created by Borisova that includes Elgin High School students, as well as the school's environmental science classes, the Elgin Sustainability Commission, the group Elgin Green Drinks and Food, and the Elgin bookstore Books at Sunset.
Elgin Water Day opens with a public reception from 6 to 9 p.m. today at the Elgin ArtSpace, 51 S. Spring St., for an exhibit titled "The Language of Water: An Interlude of the Arts and Sustainability." The exhibit runs through May 4 and includes works by ArtSpace residents, Fox Valley artists and local students.
"The goal of the exhibit is to remind us that water not only sustains our bodies, but it nourishes the soul," said Judi Brownfield, owner of Books at Sunset and co-curator of the exhibit, along with Elgin artist Kathleen Haerr.
On Saturday people can experience what walking 6 kilometers (about 3.72 miles) feels like through the River Walk Adventure, a 6K walk that starts at 9 a.m. from Festival Park and ends at Voyager's Landing Forest Preserve, near Judson University.
Informational and activity stations manned by students will be set up near Pioneer Memorial Park, Elgin High School environmental science teacher Deb Perryman said.
The walk will be preceded by a ceremony at 8:30 a.m. featuring Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Commissioner Debra Shore. People can take tours of Elgin's water treatment plant from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at 375 W. River Road.
"To me, this is the way education should work," Perryman said. "We have to give our kids a purpose, and that's to understand the purpose of their education in a democracy. Help them figure out how to use that information in a real way."
Borisova said she hopes people will not just learn, but make changes, too.
"The 'what now?' part is the most important. ... (Next is) the 'take action' part," she said.
For example, start taking shorter showers and collecting rain water for their plants, she said.
"It's simple tasks that anyone can do," she said. "We feel like water is infinite, when really, it's finite."