6.3 Education Program
The District operates a watershed-wide Strategic Education and Communications program that provides general watershed education and outreach as well as targeted information. The program philosophy is that an informed and well-educated public and public base will better understand the benefits that water quality protection and improvement offers throughout the MCWD. These same groups will also better understand how their tax dollars are spent to ensure a more sustainable and valuable watershed for future generations. An Education and Communications Task Force developed the following goals and outcomes for the Strategic program:
Strategic Program: Education Goals and Outcomes
- Public will become more knowledgeable about the value of buffers in the general watershed but also more specifically within the localized communities of the MCWD’s 11 subwatersheds.
- Public will reduce runoff volume on their properties, both commercial and residential.
- Permitee public from the general homeowner and the builder, developer, and contractor areas will better understand the MCWD regulatory process and benefits through permitting and other MCWD education and communications activities.
- The CAC should consist of private, diverse citizens representing the geographical area of the District who have stake in the District to provide direct, open, independent guidance and input to the Board of Managers about plans, policies, regulation and other issues that may arise from time to time.
Strategic Program: Communications Goals and Outcomes
- Effectively inform the general public, legislators, county commissioners, elected state and city officials and the localized communities in the MCWD’s 12 [sic] subwatersheds about the MCWD and its projects, programs and rules, using the available communications tools and tactics targeted to current and newly identified MCWD public.
- Use science-based community relations for discussions about specific MCWD issues, programs, projects and rules.
- Determine the most appropriate Best Management Practice (BMP) for each subwatershed within the MCWD and communicate strategically about how to put them into practice.
- Continue to inform the general and community news media about programs, capital projects, issues, rules, controversies and crises with appropriate news releases, graphics, and media relations.
To accomplish these general education and communications goals, the District will continue to operate its Education Program in accordance with the Strategic Plan, as supplemented by specific targeted messages included in the subwatershed plans. Activities that would be undertaken include but are not limited to:
Non-Point Source Pollution Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO)
NEMO is an effective tool to help city staff, elected and appointed officials, citizen commission members, and others learn more about District goals and priorities, the ways that land use affects water resources, and applications of new technologies and practices. This Plan includes significant LGU requirements to reduce pollutant loading, protect wetlands, conserve high-value natural resources, and minimize future impacts from new development. NEMO will be an integral tool in assisting cities in their planning to meet these requirements.
Events and Workshops
The District’s role is evolving from strictly regulation to technical advisor and facilitator. District staff maintain currency on new technologies and practices, and can be an important resource for LGUs, whether providing one-on-one advice or facilitating the sharing of information between LGUs and other professionals in specialized fields such as Low Impact Development. Target stakeholders include not only LGU representatives but also developers and developers’ representatives, contractors, building tradespeople, and the general public.
WaterPro Newsletter/District Website
The newsletter is a useful means of providing a wide variety of stakeholders with general information about the District and its programs. The District’s website is another opportunity to provide a variety of useful information that can be accessed at the user’s convenience.
Cynthia Krieg Memorial Stewardship Fund
This grant program encourages and supports community service initiatives to protect water quality and promote public awareness of nonpoint source pollution abatement. The District partners with local community groups, schools, and government agencies to engage citizens in water quality protection through this memorial fund. Funded activities must result in water quality improvement and/or greater public awareness of ways to improve water quality. Applicants are strongly encouraged to include a community service component, promoting civic involvement by youth, families, and other citizens.
Citizen Advisory Committee
The Board maintains a Citizen Advisory Committee to provide advice and counsel on watershed issues. This CAC meets frequently, assisting the Board and staff with focusing the education and communications program and reviewing and providing input on issues to the Board as requested.
District staff regularly submit press releases to the media on District initiatives and items of interest, and actively seek out opportunities to “tell the District’s story.”
To evaluate progress toward achieving education and communication goals, the Implementation Plan provides for implementation of a professional public opinion survey to measure public knowledge and awareness on these and other issues of concern to the District, as well as focus groups with key stakeholders. The results of this opinion survey will be used to update the Strategic Education and Communication Plan and to refine general and targeted messages.