Water Resources Education Assessment - Watershed Groups
In recent years a number of watershed groups have been formed in rural
portions of Arizona with help and facilitation in start-up from the Arizona
Department of Water Resources and/or the Arizona Department of Environmental
Quality. They have usually been a result of water-related issues and the
need to develop programs to address issues.
Purpose and description: A typical mission statement of one of the watershed
groups is: "This group is founded on the principle that wise and
sustainable use of water resources is best accomplished by a voluntary
association of members of the watershed communities, working together
to understand both the watershed and each other. Such understanding will
be the basis for resolving conflicts and promoting cooperative use of
the water resources."
Participants include interested private citizens, interest and user groups,
businesses, and representatives of local, state, and federal agencies
having water and watershed responsibilities in the area. An outreach effort
is used to identify issues that are important to stakeholders; then an
approach is developed to address these issues. Often this requires obtaining
additional scientific data on water and watershed resources. Recently,
the Arizona Rural Watershed Initiatives program has been providing some
funds for these scientific studies. The eventual goal is development of
water management plans by local interests who will be affected by the
Outreach includes providing general water resource information, as well
as up to date information on specific issues that currently exist or which
are expected to develop with projected growth. A variety of methods have
been used, including public open houses, workshops, seminars, exhibits
at fairs or other public events, presentations to interest or civic groups,
newspaper articles, radio and TV spots or interviews, watershed group
newsletters, web sites, etc.
Audience: In addition to the general public, it is important that elected
officials receive the information, e.g., city councils, boards of supervisors,
local legislators. Some information is provided through schools; however,
the primary efforts are usually at the general (adult) public and decision-makers.
There are currently 15 watershed groups covering most of the rural portions
of the state. Their age varies from 7-8 years or more to some just formed.
Outreach has been more detailed and comprehensive in those with a longer
Impacts: Outreach through the watershed groups has been successful in
reaching the state legislature and obtaining funding for scientific studies.
For example in FY 2001, an off-budget year (the Arizona legislature appropriates
two-year budgets), out of only $6 million available for all discretionary
activities by state agencies (and more than $100 million in agency requests)
the legislature appropriated $500 thousand for the Rural Watershed Initiative.
Outreach in educating the general public and obtaining participation has
had variable success. In areas of the more active and longer tenured watershed
groups the general public understanding of water resources and issues
has been enhanced and citizens commonly discuss the water situation with
their local officials and each other.
Funding: Outreach and education programs are funded in a variety of ways.
In several of the longer tenured groups external funding has been used
to supplement local contributions or revenues generated from memberships.
Considerable volunteer labor has commonly been a part of the effort.
Lessons learned: A coordinated and combined effort from the watershed
groups working together can be effective in educating elected officials,
even though more than 80 percent of the state's population and legislators
are from urban areas. Most members of the general public are quite busy
and prefer methods of communication, which allow them to access it from
home and at their convenience. Newsletters, newspaper articles, and web
sites seem to reach many more people than public meetings or displays.
Specific information is provided for two of the longer tenured groups.
A. Upper San Pedro Partnership
The Upper San Pedro Partnership was formed so that local citizens, groups,
and government agencies could work together to develop and implement a
San Pedro Conservation Plan. Maintaining the San Pedro as a free flowing
river while increasing growth in the basin expands the use of ground water
is a primary issue. The partnership organization includes an outreach
committee, which develops and implements the outreach plan. Newspaper
articles, public information sessions, etc. have been used. Currently
an aggressive effort is scheduled for the next six-month period. It includes
development of tri-fold informational brochures, preparation of an annual
report for distribution to the public and media, condensation of the annual
report into a newspaper insert, followed by a series of public workshops
throughout the watershed.
Audience: general public and decision-makers. Want to inform those
interested in and affected by water resource decisions so that they can
participate if they choose.
Impacts: outreach efforts to elected officials have resulted in
Congressman Jim Kolbe obtaining federal funding for both study and implementation
portions of the effort. Although there is not a uniform agreement on solutions,
there is an enhanced public awareness of water resource issues.
Lessons learned: the Upper San Pedro group reported on a recent
public survey to determine preference for means of receiving information.
The survey found web sites to be the most favored with newspapers second,
radio and TV intermediate, and travel to a location to view exhibits or
hear presentations being the least favored. Having implementation of some
specific implementation projects approved or underway helps to maintain
public interest and participation in the effort.
B. Verde Watershed Association
Through its Education and Outreach Committee the Verde Watershed Association
(VWA) provides education on water and watershed resources and issues in
the Verde watershed. For the last several years this has included a monthly
newsletter which includes brief "capsules" of water news, reports
of VWA activities and "white papers" providing more in-depth
coverage of selected issues or water topics. In addition there is a web
site with linkage to a number of other water resource sites. The VWA has
also worked to further public education by facilitating and hosting public
meetings on several water issues, including presentations on TMDL studies
(Total Maximum Daily Load) by ADEQ, and Southwestern willow flycatcher
critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act with the U. S. Fish
& Wildlife Service.
Officers of the VWA have given presentations on water resources and issues
to a wide variety of groups in the area. In one six month period the chairman
and vice-chairmen gave presentations to audiences totaling more than 2,000
people. Meetings of the VWA are held monthly in locations throughout the
watershed from Prescott to the Verde Valley to Pine. Educational presentations
on water topics are usually a part of these meetings. The Natural Resource
Committee also holds monthly meetings across the watershed and addresses
technical water items. These meetings are also open to the public with
some general public attendance, depending on the particular subject and
Audience: the general public and, most especially, those interested
in and/or affected by water resource activities and decisions. With the
help of outside funding, the mailing list for the monthly newsletter grew
to about 4,000. Currently, with that funding gone, the mailing list of
paid members has been sharply reduced.
Impacts: favorable verbal and written responses to monthly newsletter.
Public interest in water issues has led to Yavapai County formation of
a Water Advisory Committee, representing local governments and Indian
Tribes, with an associated Technical Advisory Committee. Several members
of the leadership of VWA were appointed to the Technical Advisory Committee.
Funding: For several years, funding of the newsletter came from
a grant with the Bureau of Reclamation. Currently, funds are derived through
paid memberships from individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies.
VWA has attained nonprofit status through the IRS and can receive grants
and tax-deductible donations.
Lessons learned: Most members of the general public are more likely
to attend public meetings and actively participate if they feel threatened
in some way and feel a need to mobilize. If they believe that someone
is adequately representing their interests, they are less likely to take
the effort to come to meetings. Convenience is important in terms of receiving
information. The newsletter has been widely read and the web site used
frequently. However, only a small fraction of the individuals who receive
information in this manner attend public meetings or presentations.