Who could have imagined back in the early days of AWW how far-reaching the program’s impacts would be 25 years later. Read about some of AWW’s impressive achievements in Eric’s recent AWWareness Article: AWW Celebrates 25 Years of Watching the Water.
Over the weekend of May 20th, volunteers, supporters, and friends of AWW joined together at the Living River Retreat on the Cahaba near Montevallo to celebrate the achievements and importance of AWW over the last 25 years. Here are a few highlights from the celebration.
The day began with a welcome that included recognition of the AWW Association board members, volunteer trainers, and monitors by AWW Director, Eric Reutebuch. Each of the twelve trainers present received a poster of the America’s Amazon Infographic in recognition of his or her valuable contributions to AWW.
Dr. Puneet Srivastava, Director of the Auburn University Water Resources Center, continued the welcome and expressed his contentment with the current stability of the AWW Program thanks to support from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.
Dr. Paul Brown, Associate Director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) congratulated the group and then shared some impressive statistics from the most recent AWW Impact Statement. In 2016, volunteers submitted 2,927 water quality data records to the AWW online water quality database, providing the State over $542,563 in savings for collection of water data. Furthermore, AWW-certified volunteer trainers conducted 51% of trainings at a value of $65,357.
Dr. Brown announced that ACES increased their contribution to AWW by about 60% for this Fiscal Year. Dr. Brown expressed his satisfaction with the seed AWW is planting in the youth of Alabama through the 4-H AWW Program.
During the past few months, AWW has been receiving congratulatory videos from people all over the world who wanted to share how AWW has improved their watersheds and affected them personally. During the celebration, these inspirational messages were shared via video and a couple of our biggest supporters were able to share with us in person.
View messages from AWW volunteer monitors, trainers, and Association Board Members below.
Hana Beres, Education Training Coordinator for the Stormwater Division of Jefferson County, discussed how AWW is an important tool for community outreach and stormwater education. Hana has been involved with AWW since she was trained as a monitor in 1998, and then became a Volunteer Trainer in 2001. Hana has conducted 65 workshops since that time and has been a member of the AWWA Board of Directors as well. Hana emphasized the importance of thinking outside of the box when you are trying to engage and educate citizens and elaborated on how AWW provides an excellent way tool for engaging communities in stormwater management. Her passion for AWW is evident!
To continue this theme of how AWW benefits local and state agencies and organizations, several representatives from such partner organizations shared their stories via the video messages below.
Dr. Eve Brantley, Associate Professor in the Auburn University Department of Crops, Soils, and Environmental Science and Water Resources Specialist with ACES was also present to share a message. Eve has been involved with AWW since its early days as a trainer and AWWA Board member. She continues to be one of AWW’s biggest supporters and partners. She expressed her gratitude for AU and ACES supporting the program and credited the tenacity of the volunteers and staff for it’s long-term success.
Not only has AWW had a lasting effect locally, regionally, and national but it served as the catalyst for a global community-based watershed stewardship program, Global Water Watch (GWW). Sergio Ruiz-Cordova, GWW Associate Director, introduced several videos contributed by our friends at GWW Mexico. Monitor and Trainer Eduardo Aranda expressed his gratitude to AWW for providing the example and ended the message by returning to the well-known Margaret Mead quote that the AWW and GWW volunteer emulate… “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
See GWW Mexico’s video message below.
The purpose of the celebration was not only to recognize the accomplishments of the last 25 years, but to look to how we will continue this great endeavor for the next 25 years. With this in mind, it is extremely important to have members of the younger generations involved. Thankfully, AWW is reaching out to those groups as evidenced in the video messages submitted by college and high school students. Watch the Future Faces of AWW Video below…
AWW Program Updates
By AWW Director, Eric Reutebuch
2016-2017 was a busy year for AWW. Between staff and volunteer trainers 103 workshops were conducted all over the state to yield 567 new certifications. The AWW database is approaching 90,000 water data records!
Interest in AWW continues to grow according to our website visits. Visitors from all 50 states and 112 countries have made their way to alabamawaterwatch.org with a total of 61,437 page views (over 5,000 per month). Over 60% of the visits were from new visitors.
Another highlight of our Annual Update was the impressive list of more than 25 organizations and agencies who have used AWW data in the couple of years.
Eric shared updates on some exciting AWW Initiatives that are currently underway including a few that you may be familiar with:
- Water Chemistry and Bacteriological Monitoring Instructional Videos
- AWW Infographic
- AWW Tiger Giving Project
And a few new initiatives that you will be hearing more about in coming months:
- AWW App – AWW will soon release an App that will allow volunteers to enter and review data, upload photos, watch instructional videos, and submit latitude and longitude for new sampling sites from their smartphones and tablets. Stay tuned, as we will make an announcement with more information as soon as the App is available for download.
- Partnership with the Auburn University Coast Guard Auxiliary – AWW recently certified members of AU Coast Guard Flotilla 81-08-12 as monitors. In a partnership with AWW and the City of Auburn, cadets are monitoring water at several strategic sites.
- AWWA Bassclassic on Lake Martin at Wind Creek State Park – This was the first fishing tournament ever sponsored by the AWW Association. Michael Freeman, vice-president for AWWA, worked hard to coordinate the awareness and fundraising event. Look for information for a second tournament to take place on December 9, 2017.
The finale to our annual updates was the announcement that Governor Kay Ivey has made an official proclamation that this is “The Year of Alabama Water Watch”. This is a great honor and a wonderful way to mark AWW’s 25th year!
4-H AWW Program Updates
By Mona Dominguez, 4-H AWW Program Coordinator
This year 4-H AWW was able to grow in a significant way in part due to the support received from an EPA Environmental Education grant received in 2015. The goal of the EPA Project was to build capacity within the 4-H AWW Program to provide educators including teachers, volunteers, and 4-H agents with the training, materials, and support needed to increase environmental literacy for youth (ages 9-18) in Alabama.
In the past year, nearly 90 educators were training in the project supported Exploring Our Living Streams Workshops. To date educators involved with 4-H AWW have reached around 1,800 youth in 2016-2017. This number is expected to grow as the school year ends and additional reports are submitted.
If you or an educator you know are interested in joining the effort to extend AWW to the next generation, please consider attending one of the summer educator workshops. You can get more info in the Environmental Education section of our website. Registration is filling up and will close soon, so don’t delay.
By AWWA President, Michael Mullen.
Mike introduced the two newest Board Members: Whitney Henson and Dr. Stephen Tsikalas – both members of the Jacksonville River Monitors Group which is based out of Jacksonville State University.
In addition, Mike proposed a challenge that the AWWA increase the Mullen Endowment Fund to $25k to celebrate 25 Years of AWW. Currently the fund is at around $15,000. AWWA will release more information about this campaign in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
Personalizing Your River Ethic, Keynote Presentation
By Dr. Bill Deutsch
Participants enjoyed a thought-provoking keynote presentation by AWW founder and former director, Dr. Bill Deutsch. Read a summary of the presentation below that was written by Dr. Deutsch.
I was asked to give the Keynote at the AWW 25th Anniversary Celebration and chose to speak on the topic, Personalizing Your River Ethic. To prepare the talk, I drew from material I’ve developed for a Rivers of Alabama course I teach in our local Lifelong Learning Institute, and from a book I’m writing titled, Alabama Rivers…a Bicentennial Celebration and Challenge. In our work with Alabama Water Watch or even with life in general, it’s easy to get so busy with necessary activities that we lose track of why we are doing them. As important as it is to monitor the condition and trends of our streams, or teach children about water, or testify at a public hearing about water policies, our ability to keep going for the long haul will largely depend on our life code or ethic that answers the question, Why? To stimulate thought about core beliefs that can motivate and sustain our AWW activities, I used an interactive exercise called, “Alabama Rivers Are…” Seven features, or Celebrations, about rivers were presented, including the important role that rivers play in our history, culture, economy and spirituality. The exercise asked each person in the audience to rate the level of importance of each celebration and then to rank the seven celebrations in order of importance to them. We got the juices flowing! Several people remarked about how they were stimulated to think more deeply about their personal river ethic, and I think we all learned more about how to best communicate the AWW mission and message to the public and policy makers in the years to come.
Thanks to everyone who was able to join us for the celebration, and to everyone who has been a part of AWW during the past 25 years. We look forward to 25 more!