I was chowing down on a very berry vegan muffin and chatting with members of Norman’s Environmental Advisory Board last week when I heard some exciting news. Norman is a finalist in the Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, Environmental Excellence Competition.

There are 10 finalists in the governmental programs category, and we won’t know until the night of the banquet who will take the big prize, but it’s just one more sign that Norman is a leader in its environmental efforts.

Norman’s commitment to the environment is one of my favorite things about this city. (The very berry vegan muffins aren’t bad, either.)

Quality of life matters. And while we often associate quality of life with parks and trails and other amenities, my trip to Bangladesh in January brought it home that quality of life starts with clean drinking water, good sewer systems and good stormwater drainage.

I interviewed a young woman once who was in Haiti doing mission work when a devastating earthquake hit.

While her memories of the earthquake and the chaos that followed were profound and memorable, she spent an equal amount of time talking about two other things — her love for the orphans she worked with and the fact that people drank from a river where they also did laundry and dumped trash.

One of Rotary International’s most impressive programs is the campaign to provide safe drinking water to people. Rotary attributes 80 percent of all sickness in the world to unsafe water, with nearly one billion people without access to water sources, and a child dying every eight seconds because of the water crisis.

Safe water may start at the well site, but it doesn’t end there. In addition to the need to properly treat our water, we must treat our wastewater before releasing it back into Oklahoma’s rivers.

So back to the ECAB meeting I jumped in on this past week. ECAB took a field trip to tour the Norman Wastewater Reclamation facility, aka the sewer plant.

There’s a reason for the renaming. Industry officials now realize and want the rest of us to catch on that the human-use water cycle does not end with the flush of the toilet.

That water winds up back in rivers and lakes and becomes part of somebody’s water source.

Right now, Norman is upgrading the water reclamation facility. The most exciting part of that upgrade is the ultraviolet light disinfection facility currently being built. UV disinfection kills pathogens, viruses and molds.

Maybe it seems silly that I’m excited about what’s happening at the sewer plant, instead of writing about the latest finds at the mall or a new menu at one of our great restaurants.

I’ll probably get around to writing about those things at some point. But last night, my grandsons came over and we cooked vegan franks over my outdoor fire pit and chowed down on popcorn while watching “Rescuers Down Under.”

They like grandma’s ancient collection of Disney VHS tapes, and they like running to my fridge and filling up their glasses with ice and cold water.

I want them to have clean water to drink always. What could be more exciting than that?

Joy Hampton



My passions include yoga, running, swimming, cycling, hiking, nature photography and a love of animals and the natural environment.

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