FY19 WRRI Matt Waters Lake Tristan Orndorff

Alabama Watershed Stewards

The Alabama Watershed Stewards (AWS) program at Auburn University uses a watershed approach to involve people in addressing local quality concerns, providing people with the knowledge and tools they need to begin making a positive change in their watersheds. The goal of AWS is to create the conditions for long-term change by building social infrastructure, localizing water quality issues, and providing tangible steps for improvement. 

The AWS program offers state-wide educational trainings to the public. Housed under the Auburn University Water Resources Center, AWS receives funding from a Clean Water Act 319 grant through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

The program promotes healthy watersheds by increasing understanding of water pollution while providing the knowledge and tools needed to prevent and resolve local water quality problems. Activities are led by the Auburn University Water Resources Center, (Alabama Cooperative Extension System Water Program in partnership with Alabama Water Watch) and various local partners.  

Wood Duck Nature Preserve Rain Garden Maintenance

Alabama Watershed Stewards Rain Garden Maintenance Day. Photo Credit: Sydney Zinner, AUWRC 

 

Why Watersheds Need Stewardship

Water is one of Alabama’s most prided resources, offering a range of habitat and biodiversity, as well as outdoor recreation opportunities. However, when we have shared resources like water, people struggle with the question, “Whose responsibility is it to protect our waterways when they belong to all of us?”. The answer is: It’s everyone’s responsibility, and watershed stewardship can make a difference in the longevity of our natural resources. Human behavior and design impacts watershed health, and the activities that take place on the land ultimately impact ecosystem health and water quality. 

WHAT IS A WATERSHED?

A watershed is a naturally defined area of land that determines how precipitation collects and drains water into a common basin (river, lake, or stream). Everyone lives in a watershed and each watershed is different. Pollution, erosion, and other activities that take place on the land can significantly impact water quality and ecological communities within the watershed. Watersheds are natural geographic boundaries in the landscape and can be a helpful and tangible way to frame and address local water quality concerns. 

Watersheds are naturally defined geographic areas at differing scales that determine how precipitation collects and drains to a common low point. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

WHY USE WATERSHED APPROACH?

Approaching water quality concerns at a small, local scale can empower people to take action. Making the connection between land use, human activities, and ecological impact on our shared natural resources can be a difficult task due to the complexity of these systems. Watershed planning can give local stakeholders more ownership over appropriate avenues for change by outlining the current state of the watershed, projected concerns, and by prioritizing future activities. 

By using a watershed approach, the Alabama Watershed Stewards Program encourages citizens to take an active role in addressing local water quality concerns. Communities can use watershed management plans to help prioritize community activities, providing a tangible bite-sized approach to tackling the biggest areas of concern within a watershed. 

Water quality monitoring is a citizen science method for measuring changes in water quality parameters over time.  Photo Credit: Alabama Water Watch 

PROGRAM OFFERINGS

Alabama Watershed Stewards hosts several types of trainings, each intended to promote healthy watersheds, increase citizen understanding of watershed pollution, and provide people with the tools they need to prevent and resolve local watershed issues. Visit the ACES Calendar and search for “watershed” to see all upcoming offerings.

Alabama Watershed Stewards Trainings 

One day in person trainings across the state focused on specific watersheds with the goal of increasing citizen awareness and knowledge about the function of watersheds, their potential impairments, and local watershed protection strategies. The program will also include practical information about local watersheds groups, partnership opportunities, and provide engaging tools for encouraging individuals to take leadership roles in improving their local water quality. 

  • $20 registration  
  • Fee covers lunch and an Alabama Watershed Stewards Handbook.  

Watershed Management Planning Workshops 

One-day in person workshops about watershed planning. Wherever you live, you live within a watershed. A watershed is a naturally defined area of land that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and oceans. The land use activities in your watershed can ultimately influence the quality of water in a region. Citizens can become involved with improving local water quality through watershed planning efforts. Watershed planning is an integrated approach to responsible resource management by considering the watershed as a whole. The process involves several factors such as targeting problem areas in a watershed, promoting awareness and involvement of stakeholders, and developing solutions to identified problems. In this watershed planning workshop you will learn about: 

  1. Watershed planning 
  1. The basics of watershed management 
  1. How to get involved with local groups and organizations   

If you would like to become a citizen science water quality monitor via Alabama Water Watch, you can also sign up for their workshop which is held in conjunction with this training.  

  • $20 registration  
  • Fee covers lunch and an Alabama Watershed Stewards Handbook.  

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

The AWS program offers several educational resources from publications to videos.  

These and other resources are available under the Water Resources section of the Alabama Extension website. 

LEARN MORE

Want to learn more?To find upcoming events, workshops, and other learning opportunities, visit theAlabama Extension calendar. Follow the ACES Water Social Media account to stay up to date, or click the photo below to be added to the AWS Newsletter mailing list.