Current Projects & Resources
Education about watershed management should begin with youth and can extend throughout adulthood careers. Recognizing this, regionally supported projects by Wyoming, Utah, and Montana have resulted in assemblage of research-based tools, training resources for adult learners, and educational opportunities for youth which are contributing to improved understanding of the principles of watershed function and the effective and meaningful assessment of health and management of watersheds for multiple benefits. Spawned from a USDA-NIFA Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) in Utah, and water quality monitor training programs in Wyoming, a monitoring guidance document, Best Management Practices Monitoring Guidance Document, was designed to help watershed managers identify appropriate and effective monitoring strategies to meet specific watershed monitoring project objectives.
The guidance manual is currently used for training college students, tribal interns, natural resource agency personnel, volunteer monitors, and teachers throughout the region. Individuals involved in monitoring, with benefit of training from the document, have increased knowledge on the importance of credible data and more reliable assessment of effectiveness of best management practices in stream systems of the region. Additional outcomes of this regional effort are improved management of watersheds based on real understandings of effectiveness of different implementations and practices; improved water quality monitoring programs that better characterize problems within watersheds and are designed to identify and quantify impacts associated with changed behaviors and implemented best practices; and increased involvement and understanding by citizens on how water bodies respond to changes in land uses, pollutant inputs, or other stressors.
Water Quality Monitoring Training and Certification
As a means of engaging citizens of the region in watershed management, state water quality coordinators in the region have maintained an active leadership, collaboration, or instructional role in helping natural resource agency partners and stakeholders strengthen capacity for water quality monitoring, both among volunteers and professionals. Wyoming has developed a rigorous, tiered approach to monitor certification and is now serving as a model for other states in the region. Montana recently formalized a partnership with the Montana Watercourse to follow the Wyoming example, while incorporating important principles currently taught in Utah. Additionally, four of the regional states have initiated or maintained active participation in the Rocky Mountain water quality monitoring network, a collaborative information sharing network of natural resource agenciesand EPA Region 8.
Youth and Educator Education
Much of the work on nonpoint source control depends on changes in individual behaviors. These changes in behaviors often result from an understanding of the benefits surface and ground water provide, knowledge of a linkage between activities on land and quality of waters, and a level of concern that will actually motivate behavior change. Studies indicate that this concern is often founded in activities and experiences during youth. Studies also indicate that formal and informal youth educators often have very little understanding of the science and issues of water and watersheds. As a result, water quality educational programs are often not utilized by formal and informal educators. Increasing young peoples' knowledge and awareness of water related science is integral to future water quality management.
A component of the regional initiative on watershed management is a water quality curriculum targeted to youth to college students to teachers. Streamside Science, curriculum for 9th grade students, was initially developed by Utah. The Utah model was expanded into a for-credit on-line graduate course aimed at science teachers. Additional components of the Utah model and the on-line graduate course have also been incorporated into undergraduate (collegiate) classroom instruction.
Tribal, Hispanic Serving Institution, and 2-year College WQ Curriculum Capacity Building
No less than 23 uniquely identified Native American populations, five Hispanic serving higher education institutions, 17 Native American higher education institutions, and 40 two-year and vocational education/technology colleges presently address educational needs of underserved populations of the region. Many underserved communities face water quality impairment issues, including access to safe drinking water. While there is often significant desire within and from outside these underserved communities to address water quality needs, in many cases there is lack of knowledge among community members about how to characterize and address these issues. Additionally, although 1994 institutions, Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) institutions and locally-attended 2-year and vocational education/technology institutions provide the venue for improving the knowledge base of underserved community members, a critical mass of faculty and instructors with water quality expertise and experience is often lacking. Partnerships facilitated between faculty of Tribal, HSI, and 2-year colleges and land-grant universities through the USDA-NIFA National Water Program can help bridge the gap between science and community implementation adapted to specific community needs.