AWW celebrates 25 years of watching the water

Back in 1992, Bill Deutsch was fresh out of graduate school at AU, and ready to go out and change the world – for the better, of course. Little did he know that 25 years later, AWW would have trained 7,400 citizen monitors who have monitored 2,400 sites on the streams, rivers, lakes, bays and bayous throughout the state, and submitted over 86,000 water quality records to the AWW online database!

AWW founder, Bill Deutsch, showing off the AWW logo – and no, it is not a shrimp!

More important, that these volunteer monitors would have accomplished a litany of achievements in improving water quality and water policy through the use of their data and acquired knowledge in a myriad of watershed stewardship endeavors. The list includes positive impacts ranging from cyphering out fecal contamination in local neighborhood streams to impacting state water policy! Here are some examples:

  • Successful campaigns for upgrades in waterbody classifications and protections; examples include: Outstanding Alabama Water upgrades for Wolf Bay and Magnolia River; Treasured Alabama Lake designation for Lake Martin; Swimming use classification upgrade for segments of the Choctawhatchee River.

Wolf Bay Watershed Watch members with ADEM Chief of the Water Quality
Branch, Lynn Sisk (on right) and ARA Executive Director, Cindy Lowery (kneeling, on left) celebrating OAW status for Wolf Bay (April 2007).

Dick Bronson, Lake Watch of Lake Martin President, witnessing Governor Bob Riley signing Executive Order 52, establishing the Treasured Alabama Lake (TAL) at Children’s Harbor on Lake Martin in December 2010.

 

The Choctawhatchee RiverKeeper, Mike Mullen, working with ADEM, spearheaded upgrades to the East and West Forks of the Choctawhatchee River, and the main Choctawhatchee River downstream to Swimming and Other Whole Body Water-Contact Sports to provide increased protection of public health to those recreating in the river.

  • Advancements in environmental education for thousands of youth throughout the state; examples include: statewide 4-H AWW Program, Lake Watch annual Living Streams program at Camp ASCCA, Friends of Locust Fork annual Kids Day on the River, plus countless environmental ed booths/talks/events hosted by AWW groups throughout the state.

The Friends of Locust Fork River have organized Kids Day On The River for 17 years, providing summer fun, environmental education and adventure by the river for students in grades 2-6 and their families.

  • Multitudes of positive local impacts in municipalities across Alabama; examples include: sleuthing out sewage contamination with local municipal officials in many towns and cities; monitoring of public swimming areas at municipal parks and state parks.

Save Our Saugahatchee (SOS) volunteer monitor, Clara Clothiaux, testing a stream in the Auburn area. She, and SOS, were featured in Water Resources IMPACT, the news magazine of the
American Water Resources Association.

  • Conservation of some of the rarest creatures on the planet; examples include: monitoring and watershed stewardship efforts to protect the endangered watercress darter, known to exist in only five springs in the Birmingham, AL area.

AWW monitor, Marty Schulman, conducting his monthly water chemistry analyses at the watercress darter habitat at Roebuck Springs. Marty has  vigilantly monitored, on behalf of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, at four of the five known habitats of the endangered watercress darter .

AWW definitely has a lot to celebrate, looking back at past accomplishments as well as looking optimistically to the future, through the lens of several new initiatives. One of our biggest challenges is broadening the reach and appeal of our AWW Program – engaging new groups of people about our state’s aquatic treasure trove (which, by the way, ranks NUMBER ONE among the 50 states in aquatic biodiversity), and inviting them to join in our watershed stewardship efforts.

A major new initiative involves teaming up with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s highly successful 4-H Program to engage youth in environmental education and stewardship through the 4-H AWW Program. Spearheaded by AWW staffer Mona Dominguez, this program has reached thousands of youth throughout the state just within the last couple of years! We hope that the seeds planted by this program will yield a rich harvest of stewardship for our land and waters for years to come. To learn more about the 4-H AWW Program, check it out by clicking here .

4-H AWW coordinator, Mona Dominguez, getting youth excited about aquatic biology through stream biomonitoring.

Another initiative came about through an AU class project by Miss Jennie Powers, who had been assisting AWW and the AU Water Resources Center with database development. Jennie came to the AWW office last year wondering if we had a theme in mind that she could develop into an infographic to fulfil a requirement for her graphics design class. The results were nothing short of AWWsome!  For more info on the creation of the infographic and the numerous partners who contributed to the effort, click these links, AWWsome Infographic! , AWW Infographic 2.0 , and AWW Infographic welcomes all to Alabama .

Jennie’s America’s Amazon – Alabama the Beautiful infographic poster tells the story of Alabama’s premiere aquatic resources, the threat to these resources, and how to get involved to make a difference in protecting this precious natural treasure, all in a highly attractive and appealing way. The poster has caught the eye of folks throughout the state, and, upon request, is now featured in state parks, environmental education centers, public schools, nonprofit organizations, and at several private residences throughout the state. And the coup degras, in discussions with the good folks at the Alabama Department of Transportation, America’s Amazon – Alabama the Beautiful now greets and educates all who visit Alabama when they stop at AL DOT welcome centers and rest areas across the state!

Amanda LoCascio, paddler extraordinaire, gives her paddler’s sign of approval for the AWW infographic at an AL DOT rest area off I59.

Guest lecturer, ADEM Water Division – Water Quality Branch Chief Chris Johnson, shares his knowledge and experience of managing waters throughout Alabama with Dr. Alan Wilson’s limnology class. Mr. Johnson also emphasized Alabama’s preeminent position in North American aquatic biodiversity, as is beautifully illustrated on AWW’s infographic poster.

Lastly, an initiative that we are particularly excited about, started in response to a request from the AU College of Agriculture Dean, Dr. Paul Patterson, to develop and submit potential projects for the 2017 College of Agriculture Tiger Giving Day campaign. AWW submitted the project, Protect Alabama Waterways, which focuses on reinvigorating and expanding AWW volunteer water monitoring across the state. AWW set a goal to raise $10,000 on Tiger Giving Day for use in funding water monitoring supplies for volunteer monitors that would either adopt orphaned monitoring sites (those no longer monitored) or start monitoring at brand new sites. To our amazement, 164 generous donors contributed a total of $10,325! We have developed an AWW Tiger Giving Fund application form and are in the process of requesting applications to renew and expand monitoring throughout Alabama!

AU Tiger Giving project, Protect Alabama Waterways, surpassed its goal of $10k to support expansion of AWW volunteer monitoring statewide!

Through these new initiatives, along with our ongoing water monitor training workshops, the activities of an army of dedicated certified AWW volunteer trainers and volunteer monitors, and a growing spirit of watershed stewardship, AWW is optimistic about fulfilling our vision: a citizen monitor on every stream, river, lake, bay and bayou in the state. With over 132,000 miles of streams and rivers, we still have a ways to go, but with your help, we can make it!

P.S. Come join us to celebrate our AWW 25th Anniversary on May 20th at Living River on the beautiful Cahaba River – we hope to see you there (click here for more info)!

2 thoughts on “AWW celebrates 25 years of watching the water

  1. You people are pretty Awwsome . I look forward to doing what little bit I can to make sure that everyone who uses our waters understands the need for constant vigilance

  2. Reading this article along the River Lagan in Belfast, Ireland makes me very proud and appreciative of all the people I’ve worked with across Alabama and in the AWW office. I look forward to being with many of you on May 20, our AWW 25th Anniversary!

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