Waterstation 2.0

It has been five years now that I have been shepherding the water station around Santa Cruz County to help people understand the positive impact they can have on the environment. Back in March of 2013 I approached a water filtration company to inquire if they would like to be part of the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike festival and help us reduce our environmental footprint. The idea was to showcase their product at the event and design, build, and operate a device to help us eliminate single use water bottles. These bottles are made using oil, usually end up in the landfill, and push the price of water out and away from the people who need it most. Our goal was to provide potable water from a city water source free to users and slip in a bit of conservation messaging while they filled their bottles. In April we rolled out the water station to an appreciative audience who filled cups and camelbaks throughout the two day event.

The water station morphed slowly as did the messaging. Only a year ago we developed a system to provide water off the city water grid with the help of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz. Before that time we had been foiled by a bad hose bib at one of the New Leaf Bike to Work Days and challenged by a health inspector because he didn’t like the garden hose that we were using to supply water. The physical setup always was to situate the station on a six foot folding table with a drape that would get soaked. I’d put a brochure rack on the water station to promote my mountain bike guiding and coaching service and the whole affair was quite functional but not very eye-catching. All that changed at the end of 2017 when I found an even better way to marry water and bikes.

In 2014 I founded a mountain bike guiding and coaching service with two friends with the primary mission of developing environmental stewards. Mountain bikers are predisposed to environmental conservation by their love of the sport and where it takes place, the forests in our area. My goal by joining the board of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz and later starting The Ride Guides was to tell a bit of a story to lure riders into a deeper relationship with the environment that they love so much. The end goal was to have riders fund environmental activities, take part in caring for the environment by building and maintaining trails, and voting for pro environment candidates when the opportunity arises (Dig, Donate, and Advocate). I learned years ago as an interpreter for an environmental non-profit that effective messaging at the right time is key in getting people onboard.

Guiding and coaching individuals and small groups allows for a deep dive into what is happening locally but I really wanted to start catering to a larger and better funded demographic so I began to focus on hosting corporate group rides. I’ve done a number of these team building events and have needed to subcontract hauling the bikes and people and wanted to get better control of the quality of the service. We’ve also had rental bikes damaged and saw a big risk in further damage when moving the bikes around. The solution was to have a bike-specific trailer built for the operation. Fortunately I discovered Gary Holby online via his website Huckwagons.com and embarked on an email journey that lead us to Waterstation 2.0.

Gary was able to incorporate a 100 gallon water tank and mounts for the water station into a sixteen bike trailer and suddenly I had the tool to start getting even more people on bikes and add more flash to the water station events. Setup of the water station has been simplified radically and now takes only minutes once I arrive onsite. A marine style water pump feeds the four spigots and the whole pressure water system is powered by a small auto-style 12 volt battery and a single solar panel.

We debuted the water trailer at MBOSC’s Old Cabin Classic on May 19 and have now just over two weeks later finished our third event. Both the Santa Cruz Arts Council’s Ebb and Flow River Arts Festival and Watsonville Open Streets were wildly successful events with a hugely positive response to the service. In just these three events we have already kept thousands of single use water bottles from being manufactured and scrapped in a very short time.

Single use water bottles are always one of the primary components of the waste stream at any event and minimizing that impact should be paramount in priority to anyone organizing events. If you are organizing an event or know of one that could benefit from the presence of our water trailer please contact me at inspiredstewardship@gmail.com, thank you!