For the last couple of years, Alabama Water Watch (AWW) has been working in partnership with Alabama 4-H to expand opportunities for youth to get involved with volunteer water monitoring. Youth can play an important role in watershed stewardship, and youth need opportunities for fun, hands-on experiences with science. The 4-H AWW partnership program contributes greatly to both of these needs.
Over the last few months, 4-H AWW activity has been blossoming in west Alabama. Anyone who was traveling on Hwy 56 near the small Washington County community of Hobson on July 22nd were undoubtedly curious as to what a group of kids hanging out under the bridge were doing. Besides catching a bass or two in Bassetts Creek, which runs under the bridge, these 4-H members were conducting their first official AWW sampling event!
The idea for starting a 4-H AWW club in Washington County was the brain child of H.B. Taylor and Flo Peters. Flo is a volunteer monitor and trainer with AWW and has been instrumental in growing the 4-H AWW Program. When H.B. learned about AWW from his sister, Flo, he knew that this would be a good opportunity for his granddaughters and other youth in the area. Sabra Johnson, Alabama 4-H Foundation agent, had been on the job less than two weeks when she found herself in a creek doing bacteriological testing with H.B. and Flo. She saw the benefits that this program would provide to her Washington County 4-H members and the community and immediately became a driving force to get this club up and running. In April 2015, nine youth and several adult volunteers, including H.B. Taylor, were certified as 4-H AWW Water Chemistry Monitors and have gone on to form one of the first 4-H AWW Clubs in the state of Alabama.
Because of a new partnership with the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program, the group was provided with the AWW Chemistry testing kits they needed to get started. Data has been coming in to the AWW Office on a monthly basis. News of the 4-H AWW Club spread through the community and on November 14, 2015, the second 4-H AWW Water Chemistry workshop was conducted by Mona Dominguez, the 4-H AWW Coordinator, and Flo. They were expecting only around 10 participants because it was a big Saturday (open hunting season, a couple of football games). Thanks to the good job Sabra and H.B. did in promoting the opportunity, over 20 youth and five adults showed up to get certified. It was a great workshop! Existing members of the club also attended and even helped to teach new members how to do the practices. There are definitely some future AWW Volunteer Trainers in the making. Three of the original club members added AWW Bacteriological Monitoring certification to their suite of monitoring skills. Everyone is excited to see the success of this club and it is already serving as an example for future 4-H AWW clubs throughout Alabama.
Not only is this a great experience for the students involved, but it is also helping to fill in a huge geographical water quality data gap for AWW. Historically there has been very little monitoring in the entire Tombigbee River Basin and the 4-H AWW Washington County sites are the only sites tested in Washington County in about 20 years. H.B. has a great vision for how 4-H AWW volunteers and club members can strategically test all of the main tributaries of the Tombigbee that flow through Washington County. Eventually the club members will be able to analyze their own data, which will help them have a better understanding of how to prevent pollution in their day-to-day lives, and how to think critically and solve problems related to water quality.
If you are interested in getting involved with the 4-H AWW Program, contact the Program Coordinator, Mona Dominguez (334) 844-9323 or email@example.com.