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January 12, 2014

Watershed Coordinators: Unique Challenges, Common Goals [Part 2]

Although watersheds’ needs vary with the watersheds themselves, the most important tools of watershed management are nearly universal. A watershed coordinator in Oregon can use them as easily as a watershed coordinator in Arizona, even though the two coordinators are dealing with vastly different environmental and political climates. One might think that these tools include high-tech solutions to pollution cleanup and habitat damage, but in reality the most important tools available to a watershed coordinator are “people tools”.

Photo by Ally Shaw.

People tools allow a watershed coordinator to create, fund, and execute plans to solve local environmental problems. These tools include connections with officials, community business leaders, science leaders, and members of the local community. Each of these relationships is crucial for a different aspect of watershed management; if one of them is lacking or inadequate, the watershed coordinator will be unable to do their job at the level needed to preserve their watershed’s health.

Connections with officials are important no matter where your watershed is. However, as we’ve mentioned before, they are more likely to be vital in dry states like Colorado and Wyoming. In those places, agricultural and industrial interests struggle for access to a rare and therefore precious resource. Watershed coordinators will need to work within a political system built around the need to distribute water fairly and profitably. To do this, they will need to be familiar and on good terms with officials like ditch commissioners, division engineers, water court officials, and the heads of local mutual ditch associations.

The importance of relationships between watershed coordinators and officials varies by watershed, but connections with community business leaders are equally important no matter where you go. The most obvious reason for this is that business leaders make good contributors to fundraising campaigns and volunteer efforts. But a watershed coordinator’s relationship with community business leaders can mean so much more. It can foster a business ethic that prioritizes the watershed’s health. This major step toward a sustainable community is the most compelling reason for a watershed coordinator to develop relationships with community business leaders.

Connections with science leaders are another people tool that is important throughout all watersheds. Universities’ science departments are frequently involved with initiatives to preserve the environment of their communities. Connections between watershed coordinators and the faculty and students at a local university are a great way to put the latest in environmental science to work for your watershed. In addition, a university can often provide an academically-inclined, environmentally-aware support base for any effort to protect the health of the watershed.

Photo by KaitoVIP (deviantART).

All of these tools are, of course, useful to watershed coordinators because of their roots in the community. The most important connection a watershed coordinator will make is with the community itself. The individuals who live on your watershed all make an impact on the environment where they live. A relationship with the members of his or her watershed’s community is more than an important tool to a watershed coordinator. Connecting with them and helping them come to sustainable solutions to their watershed’s problems is perhaps their most important duty.

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Posted by Mark Contorno.

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