Water is a shared resource, and individuals, citizen groups, and local communities can participate in a wide range of activities to help protect their drinking water sources. An educated and informed public is the community’s best means of ensuring a healthy water supply.
From a fairly early age, we are taught that water is essential for life and that it plays a vital role in the proper functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems. We learn that pollution can seriously affect all living creatures and negatively impact the water we use for drinking, household needs, recreation, fishing, transportation, and commerce. Advances in wastewater treatment have removed the majority of direct “point source” problems—but some 40 percent of the Nation’s rivers, lakes, and estuaries are not clean enough to meet basic uses such as swimming and fishing. Today, the largest contributor to water quality problems is nonpoint source pollution, which results from disturbances that take place on the land. Mining and gas development, removal of forests, agricultural practices, commercial development, suburban sprawl, urban living: all these activities impact the health of our waterways. Polls conducted in Southeastern Pennsylvania show that while clean water is amongst local citizens’ biggest concerns, few recognize that degradation is largely the result of what we do on the land.
WREN developed the following video in partnership with GreenTreks Network to support educational efforts throughout Pennsylvania–and beyond. It’s a nice starting point for outreach, because it offers a nice, user-friendly look at the issues facing our Drinking Water Supplies, and some of the solutions suppliers are putting in place. We encourage everyone to take a look, embed it on their website, and share it around:
Is Your Drinking Water Protected? from GreenTreks Network – Vimeo version or YouTube below.
- Getting in Step: A Guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns (PDF) (178 pp, 5.3MB, About PDF), which presents the outreach development process as a logical, easy-to-apply sequence of steps. Information is also provided on related resources, including a free video companion guide and training workshop opportunities.
- Getting in Step: Engaging and Involving Stakeholders in Your Watershed (PDF) (80 pp, 1.3MB, About PDF), a comprehensive stakeholder guide that presents tools to effectively engage stakeholders to restore and maintain healthy environmental conditions through community support and cooperative action.
For Water Systems, Public Education is one of the Keys to Success
A good ongoing education and outreach program is a key strategy to protect your community’s drinking water. A resident or business owner who understands the importance of protecting their drinking water resources will be more willing to use sound management practices, vote for funding to protect the community’s drinking water resources, or accept the need to implement protection measures or zoning within the protection area.
Educational programs can be directed at business owners, households, school children, civic organizations, workers or the community at large, depending on which type of potential contaminant source is targeted.
A good place to start is to notify residents and business owners that their property is within a source water protection zone. After delineations have completed, some water systems send a friendly letter to property owners located within the source water protection zones to let them know they are key partners with the public water system in keeping the community’s drinking water clean and healthy.
The purpose of outreach and education efforts is to make people who live and work in source water protection areas aware of where their drinking water comes from and how their daily activities could become a source of pollution to the water supply. Outreach and education efforts inform the community how their activities can potentially impact water quality and quantity and what they can do to prevent contamination from entering your public water supply sources.
There is a wealth of “off the shelf” public education materials available to use as is, or easily modified, for use for your Source Water Protection Program. Public education programs will pay off for years to come and are probably the least expensive source water protection management measures. A variety of resources are available under the Resources Tab, and at the WREN website – click on “Our Projects” tab and “Local Project Resources.” Check out the many source water protection public education materials here too>>.
EPA’s Nonpoint Source Program’s Getting in Step Program offers a comprehensive look at conducting an effective public education effort. Check out the Complete Outreach Series, or these highlights:
EPA’s Nutrient Pollution Outreach and Education Page – Offers various tools and publications to assist in developing effective communications materials related to nutrient pollution.
Source Water Protection Lessons for Students
GreenTreks Network, the nonprofit video production and education organization behind StormwaterPA (and our partners in the creation of SourcewaterPA), have created an excellent Online Learning Center called EcoExpress which features short videos, lesson plans, hands-on activities, serviced learning projects, and more. Content is aligned to Pennsylvania State Standards and easily searchable by topic and grade level, and is accessible to anyone anytime–but to gain the full experience, users must register (free of charge) and set up an account. To learn about GreenTreks’ teacher training programs and facilitated student experiences, interested parties should email Anita Brook-Dupree or give the office a call at 215-545-5880.
The Future Farmers of America released a series of 20 source water protection lessons for the high school level through a partnership with USDA and EPA. The lessons contain hands-on and remedial activities, supplemental web and community resources, assessments, and community stewardship. Content covered includes the water cycle, drinking water basics, the watershed approach, and agricultural conservation practices to protect water quality.