Getting People Involved
The key to making an impact in a watershed is getting the community involved [PDF]. It took more than one person to get the watershed in the shape it is in and will take many more people to restore and protect it. Partnerships are the key to making real change in a watershed. Since watersheds cross jurisdictional lines, every interest in the watershed should be represented to discover common goals, leverage resources and avoid unnecessary resistance to implementation of the plan.
People, businesses, institutions and organizations who have a vested interest in the watershed are referred to as “stakeholders.” The various stakeholders in your watershed will likely have different expectations of how the watershed should be managed. Harness the diversity of ideas that will be shared in meetings, at events and through the grapevine and put them to work in your watershed.
Using the media to get the word out about a watershed planning effort will help you reach many more people than public meetings or workshops. But how do you get the media’s attention? Creating Effective Relationships with the Media [PDF] is a publication of the Natural Resources Conservation Service that provides some tips on how to get your watershed story in print or on the air.
In addition to traditional print, radio and television media, many watershed groups have turned to listservs, social media and other high-tech methods to inform the public of their activities. Thinking of developing an e-news option for your stakeholders? Check out the E-News Option Comparison [PDF] and Presentation [PDF]. This comparison is the final product of a project presented by participants in the Indiana Watershed Leadership Academy in 2008. It compares different means of delivering e-news and the costs, advantages and disadvantages of each. If you are interested in building a large e-distribution list and would like to learn the different ways you can manage your membership, this is a good synopsis.
Keep in mind that there are many ways to get your message out – what might work for one watershed might not work for another. The important thing is that people are aware of your watershed effort and how they can play a part.
Some changes that need to be made in a watershed are too big for a small group to tackle. It may be necessary to propose a policy change through the appropriate government authority or homeowner’s association. In order to effect public policy change, watershed groups need to work with local decision makers. It can be difficult for local decision makers to understand watershed group concerns if they do not have accurate information or have pressure from other sectors. An additional complication is that, in some parts of the State, water quantity (flooding) is often a priority before water quality. Watershed groups facing this issue can remind their public officials of the detriments of poor water quality: public health dangers of/loss of opportunity to recreate in polluted waters; lower property values associated with properties near polluted waters versus those on high quality waters; and the added expense [PDF] to clean polluted waters to safe drinking standards.
Several tools are available to help watershed groups work with public officials so that policies are compatible with water quality goals:
- Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials:
- This website targets land use education to local officials. Start with the “Tools and Resources” section. Especially check out the Fact Sheets Soapbox Editorials under “Publications.” You’ll need to sift through the Connecticut-specific information to get to wide-range applicable materials, but we think it’s worth it.
- Influence the Process of Community Decision Making:
- New resource reference material coming soon.
In the watershed management world, two heads are better than one. For more information on getting other people involved, see also: