February 13, 2018

It’s hard to picture Michael Phelps without thinking of sparkling pools of abundant water.

But the Olympic swimming champion and Paradise Valley resident realizes not everyone is fortunate enough to have sufficient clean water for everyday necessities, let alone enough to swim in. That’s why he’s teaming with Colgate to help raise awareness about wasting water.

“Water is the Earth’s most precious resource, but without realizing it we often take it for granted,” Phelps said in a written statement. “I’m committed to joining Colgate’s efforts to save water and encouraging the next generation to turn off the faucet.”

Photo by Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Phelps, his wife Nicole Johnson and their son Boomer are promoting the campaign on Instagram.

The 23-time Olympic gold medalist is lending his voice and image to a documentary series called “Tales of Two Minutes.” The name highlights the fact that people can waste as much as four gallons of water in the two minutes it takes to brush their teeth if they leave the water running.

The short films, which appear on Colgate’s YouTube channel, showcase stories from across the nation that can change the way we view water. The first film in the series highlights the extreme water scarcity at St. Michaels Association for Special Education, the only special-needs school in St. Michaels, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation.

Due to a lack of clean drinking water at the school, students and faculty needed to bring bottled water not only to drink but for basic hygiene and to clean the medical equipment needed by some of the students and adults who attend.

 Efforts to improve the situation are starting to pay off. Work by the non-profit organization Dig Deeper and a company the organization partners with, FloWater, will end the school’s reliance on bottled water.

“Up until about a month ago, we were almost totally using bottled water.” St. Michaels Education Director James Conner said. “As a result of this project, eventually we’re going to have a total water-filtration system for the entire school. In the meantime (FloWater) donated five point-of-use water-filtration systems for the school and they can filter up to 300 gallons of water a day.”

Clean water for all

The project is expected to be completed in October. In addition to water filtration, work is also being done to fix some plumbing issues on campus that have contributed to the problem.

Conner explained how vital it is to have safe water at the school, which serves 18 school-age children as well as 27 adults with disabilities.

“I think people underestimate, in general, the need for clean water at hand,” Conner said. “It’s extremely important for us. Just imagine our staff having to access bottled water to clean medical equipment two or three times a day for eight, 10, 20 students. It’s made a big difference.”

Subsequent films in the campaign will highlight water scarcity issues in Fresno, California and Cincinnati, Ohio.

The original article appeared on August 29, 3017 and is being reprinted with permission. From time to time, Water – Use It Wisely features guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. The author of this blog, Weldon Johnson, is a reporter for AZ Central and part of the Explore Arizona/Travel team. He loves his job because it gives him a chance to go places that he might not go and see things he might not see if left to his own devices. In his spare time, he likes to take things apart and put them back together. Most often, he does this with guitars, his car, or his house. If something breaks, his first thought isn’t to call a repairman or replace it but to pick up a screwdriver and figure out what’s wrong. You can read more of his articles here.