AUGUSTA — Since 1983, when the Maine Legislature designated the first full week in June as Clean Water Week, one of the longest-running signature events by the Maine Water Environment Association has a been a poster contest aimed at engaging youth audiences.

“Most Mainers are not too old to remember when trash was routinely dumped into lakes, and raw sewage was released directly into the ocean and rivers. And while it is important to look back and see how far we’ve come, the water industry is looking ahead to see where we can improve,” said Tim Wade, association president, according to a news release from the association.

In 2022, Maine became the first state to make cutting-edge efforts to stop emerging contaminants like PFAS from ending up in soils and waters. “Our work today feels similar to that of 1983, and we need the support from tomorrow’s water industry leaders,” Wade added.

To reach those youth audiences, MeWEA introduced the “Why Water is Worth it to ME” poster contest, which annually engages hundreds of students statewide to submit artwork from grades K-12. This year, a record 550 students entered, including a 10-year-old refugee that moved to Maine during the Russian invasion.

Hannah Case, a fourth grader from Poland Community School, earned recognition this year after competing for the last three years.

Cliff Island School teacher Jenny Baum had the entire school make entries to the contest, one of whom is a recent refugee from Ukraine.


Martina Fernandez Ayora, a student at Dirigo High School in Dixfield, was the winners for grades nine to 12. Submitted photo

Martina Fernandez Ayora, a student at Dirigo High School in Dixfield was the grade nine to 12 winner.

The other top winners were from Madawaska, Lincoln and Sanford.

Over a dozen businesses in downtown Biddeford will display the students’ artwork on Main Street during June, because of a partnership with the Heart of Biddeford, a municipal nonprofit working to improve the quality of life in town.

“The Saco River is a critically important part of Biddeford’s identity and one of the most valuable assets in this community. We all share the responsibility to raise appreciation for clean water in Maine,” said Heart of Biddeford’s Kiara Frishkorn.

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