AWW Program Updates and Important Announcements Shared During the 2013 Annual Meeting

On May 10th, the 2013 AWW Annual Get-Together took place in Auburn, AL at the Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve. The evening began with a lovely Social Hour during which old friends had a chance to catch up, and folks had a chance to start new water watch friendships.  Jennifer Lolley, Preserve Administrator, gave a presentation and tour to introduce attendees to the beautiful Preserve.

Bill Deutsch, AWW Director, celebrates the collective efforts of hundreds of volunteer monitors throughout Alabama

For the official start of the program, AWW Program Director, Bill Deutsch, welcomed the 80 attendees to the 2013 AWW Annual Get-TogetherRepresentatives from almost 20 AWW Groups were recognized, as well as Auburn University Administrators, AWW Association Board members, partner organizations and AWW program staff.  During his talk many important topics were discussed and are outlined in the following sections.

Resilient Program

In the last 12 months, AWW conducted 72 workshops, had 320 active monitors from 70 groups, and received 3,700 data records from 550 sites on 217 waterbodies…evidence of a vibrant program and committed volunteers in spite of recently slashed budgets!   Bill and Mona Dominguez, Monitor Coordinator, presented some of the highlights of the results of the 2012 Monitor and Supporter Survey. It was especially interesting to compare the 2012 results with those of a similar survey from 1996.  We learned that AWW has become more “gender balanced” with close to 50/50 men/women; that we are more of a “homegrown movement” with a higher proportion of monitors “originally from Alabama”; and that we are, on average, older (higher percentages over age 50 and 70). Efforts to recruit youth and young adults are obvious and underway with some exciting new programs including the launch of a Young Water Watch program, and collaboration with the 4-H programs of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). Click here for more information about the AWW/4-H Partnership. The survey also indicated that people think there is good opportunity for AWW expansion because of increasing concern among Alabama youth and adults about water and the environment. AWW monitors want to know more about interpreting and using their data to protect water quality, and they want to connect more with other AWW groups within their watershed. AWW will respond with more watershed-scale or regional meetings to facilitate this learning and connecting…we call it our “Road Show” and we gave an open invitation to speak at AWW group meetings more, so invite us!

Challenging Times

During 2011 and 2012, the AWW staff submitted 14 proposals for nearly $2 million to various governmental and private agencies and organizations in an effort to fill the funding gap when core funding from ADEM and EPA ended in 2010, while still maintaining day-to-day operations of AWW.

Big Announcements

  • Bill Deutsch, founder and Director of AWW, announced that his retirement from full-time work at AU will start on July 1, 2013. However, he will return as a part-time consultant to expand and improve AWW and to implement related projects. He will also continue as a volunteer water monitor and AWW Association Board member.
  • AWW will move from the AU Fisheries Department to join with the AU Water Resources Center on July 1, but will remain an intact program.
  • The Alabama Agricultural Experiment station that funded most of Bill’s salary for several years will begin providing partial salary support for AWW staff, and ACES will provide partial salary support for doing water education with youth.
  • This support from AU is vitally important, and everyone is encouraged to send letters or emails of appreciation to key AU Administrators.  Click here for instructions on how to do so.
  • AU Water Resources Center Director, Sam Fowler, acknowledged the outstanding work of the entire AWW staff and the leadership that Bill Deutsch has provided over the past two decades.  Sam stated, “I will not attempt to be a replacement for Bill, because I don’t think that I or anyone else can measure up to his ability and level of leadership.  I have always been in awe of the AWW program and staff and the passion of the volunteers that are part of AWW.  I am looking forward to the merger of the AWW staff and program with the AU Water Resources Center, and will do everything I can to provide the support and help find the financial resources needed to ensure the program continues to move forward.”

Gratitude and Confident Expectation

Bill expressed gratitude for a 25-year career at AU that has been primarily focused on AWW, gratitude to ADEM and EPA for 20 years of core funding, and appreciation to AU for “stepping up” and helping AWW to not only survive but thrive in a “new era.” AWW is poised to promote environmental education, advance protection and restoration of streams and lakes, and improve water policy with our unique approach of “Community-Based, Science-Based Watershed Stewardship.”

Of course, AWW is only as good as the time, energy and ideas that volunteer monitors, volunteer trainers, AWW Association members, and AWW friends put into it. They are our reason for existing and they will determine how well and in what directions AWW charts its new course. We should all be optimistic about what AWW will do in its next 20 years, realizing that each of us has an important role to play in making that happen.