Peter Rusland, Cowichan News Leader Pictorial, Mar 13 2015
Portraying Water Woman last summer perfectly matched undercurrents of acting and community activism running through Lahna Lampson’s life.
“It was a dream job plopped on my doorstep,” said the native Cowichanian who — decked as a blue-and-red caped crusader — trumpeted water conservation and river preservation at events bridging kids’ camps and SunFest, to the Islands Folk Festival.
“It was acting. I was able to design my costume and write a Water Woman script; things I loved doing, while involved with doing something for the valley.”
Lampson, 19, a graduate of eco-conscious Island Oak High School — where she appeared in various plays — cheered Cowichan Watershed Board leaders Rodger Hunter and Jill Thompson for asked her to personify Cowichan’s water crises — that again surfaced with a near-dry heritage river threatening the salmon run.
Water Woman educationally doused kids and adults with ways to avert that threat.
As the habitat superhero between June and October, she also worked with conservationist Joe Saysell who rescued fish from the shriveling river.
In offices and homes Water Woman dropped dye tablets into toilet tanks to show if water was leaking. Some of her adventures were filmed for YouTube showing.
In some ways, environmental studies at Island Oak set the stage for Water Woman.
“It’s part of who I am. I had a flair for it; that side of me was already quite developed,” she said, applauding the late Gerald Thom for tireless work saving the river.
“I found the work really inspiring because I didn’t really know about that (environmental work) side of the community.”
Lampson also realized how salmon are respected by Cowichan Tribes and various conservationists — as seen through One Cowichan and the watershed board’s annual river cleanup.
Other folks needed more awareness, courtesy of Water Woman. That’s why she adopted a costume designed to grab attention.
“I looked up superheroes and had pictures in my head of what Water Woman would look like. I had an idea of a trident because of the sea, and the superhero cookie-cutter look was my idea of Wonder Woman — I wanted a water feel with more blue, and the cape is sparkly like water,” she said.
“We went to thrift stores and had other pieces made: the cape and belt were altered; my headband and wrist cuffs were made for me.
For kids, it was as if their comic book came to life. “One girl bought blue shoes as her Water Woman shoes.”
Water Woman’s story is that she came from Australia in a bottle of wine.
Local events saw her enlist hundreds of folks in the Cowichan Valley Water Challenge, pledging to take shorter showers, only run full loads of clothes and dish washers, and stop summer lawn-watering. Some began using bath water in their garden.
“I enjoyed people’s reactions to the whole character, Lampson said. “They’d be surprised and happy; kids were probably the most enthusiastic, and because of the character they’d listen to what I had to say. It was rewarding and fun.”
Conservation measures led to some personal enlightenment too.
“I didn’t think of our coast as having drought and water problems; it was really a wake-up call.
“My character became part of me, and about not wasting water,” she said of Canada’s abundant agua. “Not everywhere are people so lucky.”
Still, Lampson’s not packing her outfit for a European working trip. She’ll be traveling, working with challenged adults, and may research drama therapy, before applying to UVic’s theatre program for next fall.
Meanwhile, she pinned her hopes for the river on environmental awareness among children.
“If kids know about it, the next generation will be more aware.
“That’s really important because young people are so impressionable — you teach a child what you want for the future of your community.”