Beth Tobey

Saturday May 5, 2018 - Free ‘Follow the Flush’ 5K Brings Awareness of Santa Cruz Wastewater with Art, Games and Humor

Beth Tobey @ 5/3/2018

Where: Start: East Remote Parking Lot, UC Santa Cruz

Finish: Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility, 110 California St. Santa Cruz 95060

When: Saturday, May 5: Walks depart from 9:30 a. m. to noon; Wastewater Treatment Plant tours are at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. for adults and children at least age 9 years old. Closed toe shoes are required.



Follow the Flush is a uniquely humorous, educational and participatory 5K walk that follows the path of Santa Cruz wastewater through natural and urban landscape on Saturday, May 5. The free family-friendly event begins at UC Santa Cruz with walking groups departing from 9:30 a.m. to noon. The walk concludes at the City of Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility where free tours are offered at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. Participants are welcome for any or all of the event. Advance registration is strongly recommended!

Wastewater touches on so many important topics at the intersections of ecological and social issues, from water conservation and sea level rise, to equitability and access to sanitation. Zooming out at critical infrastructure design and zooming into the human microbiome, we may even begin to question categories like the ‘natural’ and the ‘human.’ The walks are our way of trying to embed awareness of these issues and questions into our surroundings and make them more a part of everyday life.

— Timothy Furstnau, FICTILIS

The walk follows the approximate path that human waste travels via underground infrastructure. It includes interactive art installations, games and informational kiosks intended to raise awareness of the water footprint, issues of sustainability and equity, and the psychological dimensions of modern human waste sanitation. Potty humor may provide a playful bridge to broader conversations. The walk concludes at the City's Wastewater Treatment Facility where participants will view the ocean and estuary themed mural in progress by local artist Elijah Pfotenhauer and may join tours of the facility to learn all that goes into maintaining this critical infrastructure. Tours explain the role that microorganisms play in processing human waste and how the all-natural treatment process reduces the Santa Cruz carbon footprint and protects the environment.

Come and see how the city's award-winning plant helps to reduce the City’s carbon footprint and protects the environment! Bring your friends! It's sure to be a hoot!

— Beth Tobey

Art installations and performances:

  • A special appearance by POOP (People’s Own Organic Power) Project founder Shawn Shafner, aka The Puru, who will lead hourly meditations to rebalance the bowels, and offer wildflower mud pies to encourage communion with the holy soil.
  • The Bureau of Linguistical Reality, an interactive artwork that collaborates with the public to create new words for feelings and experiences for which no words yet exist.
  • A rare public display of Alviso’s Medicinal All-Salt,  a unique hand-harvested salt enriched with pharmaceuticals found in Silicon Valley’s natural water systems, created by Morgan Levy + Jon Cohrs.
  • A site-specific sound installation by Gregory Sullo, using wastewater pipes as both the source of the sound and the resonant speaker.
  • Poster prints by Molly Winter about the toilets of the world, decomposers, composting, and the nitrogen cycle.
  • A peek at a new ocean and estuary themed mural in progress by local artist Eljah Pfotenhauer.
  • Plus videos by Karina Mangu-Ward, Rachel Zollinger, Lize Mogel, other artists to be added soon...

Interactive displays from water-related nonprofits:

  • “Guess the Scat,” with UCSC Campus Natural Reserve Manager Alex Jones, featuring real droppings of mysterious local creatures,
  • A display about Restorative Sanitation from equitable sanitation advocacy org PHLUSH (Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human)
  • And other interactive displays from water-related nonprofits like Community Water Center,
  • Surfrider Foundation, Homeless Garden Project, UCSC Sustainability Office, Fossil Free UCSC, and Santa Cruz Climate Action Network.

Part of an ongoing series of walks held in various cities, Follow the Flush is supported by the City of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Arts Commission and co-developed by independent artist studio FICTILIS, an undergraduate research group within the DANM department at UC Santa Cruz, and other artists and organizations in the Santa Cruz community.

Questions?  Contact Beth Tobey, Arts Program Manager, (831) 420-5154; Janice Bisgaard, Public Works Community Relations Specialist, (831) 420-5166 or Rebecca Elmquist, FICTILIS Media Specialist, (917) 971-9401.

Registration is strongly recommended if you want to attend.