Located just north of downtown Olympia, the WET (Water Education and Technology) Science Center serves as a destination to educate the community about water conservation, uses of reclaimed water, wastewater treatment and environmental stewardship. The center features a range of educational exhibits and games, and hosts programs on Saturdays, ranging from ecology talks to arts and crafts. The WET Science Center is designed to be accessible to everyone with activities appropriate for all ages and free admission.
The WET Science Center was founded by the LOTT Clean Water Alliance, which provides wastewater management services for parts of Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater. A large part of what they offer is reclaimed water facilities. Reclaimed water is water that has already been used and is then treated so that it is clean and safe to be reused. All water on the planet is recycled, and reclaimed water is a practice seen in nature. The water we use now is the same water that was around during prehistoric times.
The location of the WET Science Center is also home to the 14-acre Budd Inlet Treatment Plant, a state-of-the-art treatment facility where water is cleaned to the highest standard available in the Puget Sound area. In the late ‘90s, conversations began at LOTT about the importance of education and community engagement. LOTT felt it was important for the community to know about what happens to their water, where they get it from and the environmental value of reclaiming water.
When it came time for LOTT to build a new office building, the decision was made to show their values through their practices by designating the first floor of the new building as a community education center. Upon opening, the WET Science Center immediately formed a partnership with the local school district and began hosting field trips. Now, they host groups from around the world, along with our local community.
The center features engaging activities such as a calculator to discover how much water you personally use in a day, and a station to learn about bacteria that clean wastewater. The interactive games and activities take ideas with complex science behind them and make these concepts accessible to all age groups. There are some more challenging activities, along with games appropriate to small children. Visitors can also participate in two scavenger hunts with prizes – one indoors and one outdoors.
“Right now is a cool time for families to visit because we have our wading and splashing stream,” says Amber Smith, the education program manager. The stream is located in East Bay Public Plaza next to the center. The stream is designed to look like a natural one, but uses class A recycled water that is produced by LOTT and is held to the same safety standards as a public pool. Not only is it a fun place to cool off on a hot day, but the wading stream serves as an engaging educational tool about reclaimed water. The park also features a wetland, which is currently home to 10 baby mallard ducks.
Each Saturday, the WET Science Center hosts a community event with a wide variety of themes. These events always include a hands-on activity and are free of charge, like the center overall. While the center will be closed in observance of Memorial Day weekend, their next event will be a poetry reading and workshop with Olympia’s poet laureate Amy Solomon-Minarchi.
The creation of the WET Science Center was intended to reflect the values of LOTT such as environmental protection and community education. This is why the building was designed to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum standards. LEED is the most common green building standard in the world, and their platinum certification ensures that buildings are energy efficient, and healthy for both their inhabitants and the environment. The WET Science Center features many exciting examples of energy efficiency, such as the building’s energy being generated from methane produced by the Budd Inlet Treatment Plant.
The WET Science Center is conveniently located next to the Hands On Children’s Museum and the Olympia Farmers Market. Amber suggests that the neighboring activities make it easy to turn visiting the neighborhood into a fun all-day activity.
When you visit, make sure to head home with one of the free environmentally friendly giveaways provided by the science center such as a shower timer or a kitchen grease kit, which makes it easy to avoid putting grease down the drain and into the water.
The WET Science Center is open Monday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. See their website for Saturday event scheduling, and check out their social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.