Thursday, August 11, 2016

Alyssa Auten - Ponds, Lakes, and Artesian Wells: Thoughts On My Water History and Future

Alyssa Auten has lived on and in water her entire life - near a pond, a canal, and multiple lakes and rivers. She was even a synchronized swimmer in high school. Alyssa currently serves as Executive Director of the Nicollet County Historical Society (NCHS) and enjoys preserving and promoting history, water-related or not!

I spent the past weekend at my family cabin, celebrating my 31st birthday and commemorating the selling of my childhood home. Family and friends came together to celebrate life as well as the bittersweet end of an era. On Sunday night, as steaks sizzled on the grill, our dear family friend Linda excitedly offered to “run down to the well” to fill the pitcher of water for dinner. She seemed so eager to go to the edge of the lake to the artesian well that’s been running since the cabin was built in 1950. She said there was something special about using the ever-flowing well, even though it’s the same water that comes out of the kitchen faucet.

This and other snippets I’ve heard lately about using water have made me ponder where our water comes from--especially as my involvement in the Smithsonian’s Water/Ways exhibition has recently crossed over the one-year mark. I think we all take water for granted; it’s inevitable when one grows up in a house with running water--and at a cabin with an artesian well. My hope is that, even though the NCHS is a history organization, our involvement in Water/Ways will not only teach the public about the history of water in our area, but will also inspire our guests to think more carefully about how they use water.

During the six weeks NCHS and its 24 partners host Water/Ways there will be over 20 programs available to the public. From ‘water chakra yoga’ classes to tours of the St. Peter Wastewater Treatment Plant, we’re aiming to help the public learn about past and present water stories. Not only are we offering a variety of ways to interact with water, we are trying to act as example in the effort to improve local water quality. Recently, we installed a large rain garden on the north end of our museum. This rain garden will catch water runoff from our large, metal roof, and filter it through native plants before it heads down to the nearby Minnesota River. There are so many ways to better care for water and we hope our historical society can lead the charge. After all, knowing where we come from and how we got here should help us improve our future, and keep our clean, fresh water flowing for generations to come.

Visit the Water/Ways traveling exhibit in St. Peter at the Nicollet County Historical Society’s Treaty Site History Center from August 13-September 25, 2016.

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