In Indiana, nonpoint source pollution is largely unregulated at the state level (exceptions to this are IDEM’s Confined Feeding and Municipal and Industrial Storm Water programs). Therefore, Indiana and downstream states rely heavily on individuals to voluntarily manage their nonpoint source pollution inputs by installing and maintaining best management practices (BMPs) on their property. Watershed restoration efforts use a combination of education, financial assistance, and social pressures to promote restoration in order to gain individual-level participation in watershed management. In addition, some communities have used local ordinances to help achieve improvements in water quality.
There are many ways to promote restoration in your watershed. The key is to understanding what influences and motivates the local stakeholders. For example, some may value using water resources for boating and fishing, while others enjoy it only for scenic beauty. What may be successful for promoting restoration in one watershed may not be in another. U.S. EPA Region 5 has developed a social indicator survey to help watershed groups assess what is important to watershed stakeholders and how they are willing to change behaviors.
Changing behaviors can be challenging, especially when there are obstacles such as lack of finances, time, skills, and equipment. Even traditions and the perception of little to no water quality benefit can prevent someone from changing a behavior. It is the watershed group’s responsibility to overcome these obstacles by providing education, cost-share opportunities, and updates on water quality and watershed health.
Early adopters embrace new technology before most other people do. Early adopters tend to buy or try out new hardware items and programs, and new versions of existing programs, sooner than most of their peers. They typically respond to traditional means of promotion, such as brochures, workshops, and word-of-mouth and are essential to getting initial sign-ups for a watershed cost-share program.
Seeing Is Believing
Many watershed stakeholders in Indiana are hesitant to try something new. Only physical or concrete evidence will convince a person to implement a new practice. Watershed groups will benefit by showcasing the early adopters, their practices, and demonstrating that these changes are environmentally beneficial and economically feasible.
Getting the Word Out
If brochures, workshops, and word-of-mouth are not doing the trick, try one of these ideas used by Indiana’s watershed groups:
- Submit press releases to the newspaper or write a letter to the editor to promote your program.
- Submit a public service announcement to the local radio station or participate in an on-air interview.
- Promote your program in combination with local Purdue Extension applicator permit classes.
- Form a relationship with your local co-ops, ag dealers, and certified crop advisors so that they can share your funding information with producers as they advise them on practices to increase yields.
- Talk about it every time you get a group of people together – annual meetings, field days, county fairs – use those captive audiences!
- Use social networking media, like Facebook and Twitter, to get your message out.
- Partner with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency so that they promote your program as another conservation funding mechanism.
- Use a few, targeted direct mailings. Then follow up with a phone call.
- Make up postcards for your steering committee members or board to put in their vehicles and distribute as needed.
- Find additional funding to defray landowners’ costs of installing BMPs as part of a wider restoration/watershed plan implementation program.
Tools to help promote your restoration project:
- IDEM’s Print-on-Demand Center:
- To aid watershed managers in their efforts to promote restoration, IDEM has added nonpoint source-related brochures, bill stuffers, and more to its online repository of customizable print pieces.
- Section 319 Implementation Funding:
- Many watershed groups and local government entities require additional funding for this promoting restoration and offer to pay a percentage of or fixed-rate for the installation of a best management practice.
For additional assistance with promoting restoration, please refer to the Watershed Toolkit.