An Education For All

Work set to begin on
Water Education Center, museum

Interior of historic pumping station
to undergo rennovation

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (January 2012) – The Ohio River has always provided Louisville with a necessary commodity, while affording transportation opportunities for many businesses. Plans are under way for this long history to be permanently displayed for many generations to come.
“Louisville has a rich water history,” said Greg Heitzman, president of the Louisville Water Co. He believes the city has accomplished pioneering work in the area of water technology and will continue to do so.

Louisville Water Tower

Photo by Helen E. McKinney

The Louisville Water Tower and
Pumping Station has been a familiar
site along River Road at Zorn
Avenue for more than a century.

For these reasons, the Louisville Water Co. is pursuing a plan to establish a Water Education Center near the historic Water Tower and Pumping Station 31 off of Zorn Avenue in Louisville, and a Water Works Museum that would be housed inside the pumping station and feature a permanent water display. This would be a way to “showcase the rich water history of the area,” said Heitzman.
The main part of the museum exhibit would incorporate a display that was set up in 2011 at the Frazier History Museum. The display ran for seven months with about 20,000 people viewing it.
“There was a tremendous response from the public and schools to make it an ongoing exhibit – one that would be open to the public,” said Heitzman.
In 2009, the water company spent approximately $2 million to restore the Water Tower and another $2.2 million to restore the pumping station exterior in 2010. The interior of the pumping station is still in need of updating.
The Louisville Water Co. board of directors met in November 2011 and approved a capital budget for 2012. This budget incorporated funding for two projects: renovation of the interior of the pumping station and the creation of a conceptual design and feasibility study for a Water Education Center.
The board “approved $2.3 million to renovate the interior of Zorn Avenue Pumping Station 31 over the next two years,” said Heitzman. The pumping station is located behind the Water Tower. Built in 1856, the Water Tower began operations on Oct. 16, 1860.

Over the last five years, the exterior of the pumping station was renovated. The interior work will be spread over two years, starting with $315,000 for beginning design of the work and starting construction.
The interior work will start in the spring, Heitzman said. Water company officials hope to award a construction contract in the third quarter and begin work in the fourth quarter of the project, completing it by the summer of 2013.
Currently, the space is leased to the Louisville Visual Arts Association and has been since 1977. In July 2012, the lease will expire.
“We have agreed to extend the lease until Dec. 1, 2012,” he said. After the Louisville Visual Arts Association has moved out, “heavy renovation work will begin in the spring and summer of 2013.”
The second project consists of the idea of establishing a Water Education Center. The Louisville Water Co. board approved $150,000 to conduct a conceptual design and feasibility study for a Water Education Center, said Heitzman. “This would be a separate, stand-alone building,” he said. It may be constructed on the Zorn Avenue property to complement a water museum.
This feasibility study would take into consideration topics such as costs, marketing and different uses for the facility. The center’s theme would be “The World of Water.” It would encompass “all aspects of water,” said Heitzman.
The Louisville Water Co. is looking to identify partners to help underwrite and support the project. “We hope it will be attractive for corporate sponsors interested in helping build a facility,” he said.
The water company will fund part of the project; it will not fund the actual construction, since only $150,000 has been approved to evaluate the concept and feasibility of the center in 2012.
The center will take up 25,000-50,000 square feet and will be a multi-purpose facility where different events can be held. The Louisville Water Co. has held discussions about partnering with EDGE Outreach on this Water Education Center project.
EDGE is a nonprofit organization that has partnered with the Louisville Water Co. in a variety of ways in the past, such as technology and water testing, said founder and executive director Mark Hogg. “We not only want to celebrate what the water company will do throughout the years, but the impact it has had around the world globally.”
EDGE has worked with the Louisville Water Co. since 2001. Hogg said he believes Heitzman has “a vision to help the community that will ultimately save lives.”
He cites water borne illnesses as the “greatest problem in the world.” Based in Louisville, EDGE’s mission includes providing drinkable water in disaster ravaged countries.
As an extension of the partnership that began in 2001, EDGE wants to “develop a stronger educational component” to this project by providing a major exhibit. “We can connect information together in an educational platform allowing people to learn and engage in activities that will help them see waters’ impact globally,” Hogg said.
Students from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville are involved in this project as well. A U of L MBA class is developing a business feasibility study. Students from the UK School of Architecture are working on a two-part process, developing a model and explaining the costs and space requirements for a Water Education Center. Plans call for opening a Water Works Museum by October 2013.

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