Why Important

Engaging the Public in Protecting Water Resources
It is becoming more clear, every day, that our water resources – and the need to protect them – are vitally important to wildlife, to us individually, to us as a nation, and to the world at large.  We have reached a critical stage in history where we can no longer take nature – and all the benefits we draw from her – for granted.  The well-being of the natural world, on which we all depend, is in peril on many fronts.  Nothing is more precious to life than clean water.  Because of this, it makes sense to do all we can to instill, in our people (and most especially our youth) an understanding of water and watersheds, and how the activities of man affects them – both positively and negatively.
Although water quality has improved significantly since the early 1970s, nearly 40 percent of the nation’s assessed waters are not fishable or swimmable, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. What’s worse, that 40-percent statistic represents only the 19 percent of America’s streams that are actually monitored. The vast majority are not; therefore, we have no idea exactly how many of the nation’s waters do not live up to basic standards. We will not be able to achieve our clean water goals nationwide until we know how all of our streams are doing. Faced with a serious economic downturn, government agencies have fewer and fewer resources to devote to clean water. 
Moreover, new potential threats to water quality arise every day in our quest to find domestic energy sources.  In particular, hydrofracking for natural gas in the Marcellus shale region is a new possible source of water pollution that requires the monitoring of water where drilling is occurring.  See www.iwla.org/hydrofracking to read more about this issue. 
To that end, the Izaak Walton League of America’s PROJECT WATERSHED program strives to educate the public by engaging people in the actions of monitoring the health of waterways in their own communities - with an eye toward learning what a watershed is, analyzing the health of their own streams, recognizing man’s activities that effect that streams health, understanding what can be done to correct problems, knowing why it is important to take those corrective actions, and (most importantly) instilling a desire to take those actions in protecting the whole system.
After each monitoring session by students or adults, waters quality results are uploaded onto the Project Watershed database.  The information is used by government agencies and nonprofit organizations that depend on Project Watershed’s quality-assured data for making watershed management decisions and identifying projects for fish and wildlife restoration. 
Connecting Children to Nature
Perhaps the most serious challenge for conservation of streams and other natural resources is that children are not connecting with the outdoors like they used to. Most conservationists love nature because they spent time outdoors. Therefore, it is alarming that, on average, American children ages 8 to 18 spend more than six hours per day with electronic media and only 30 minutes per week exploring the outdoors. Studies have found that these trends have led to a decline in children’s physical and mental health, lower test scores in science and math, and less interest in the pursuit of careers in the natural resources field. The prospect exists of an entire generation of children who do not understand or appreciate their environment and are less likely to advocate for its protection as adults.
Studies have shown that hands-on activities in which students discover things for themselves provide the highest quality learning experiences, and that linking these activities to real-world applications is vital to capturing and maintaining student interest. 
Project Watershed does this by taking students out of the classroom and into local streams.  They learn how to monitor water quality and how their activities affect the health of local waterways. 
Making Environmental Education Easy for Teachers
According to an Izaak Walton League survey of teachers in New York State, limited time and lack of training in stream ecology are the greatest barriers to providing hands-on water science to their students.  Project Watershed eliminates these barriers by providing:

  • a curriculum for teachers that meets State standards;
  • equipment for stream monitoring;
  • staff and volunteers to lead field studies; and
  • follow-up activities for students.

In fact, all teachers surveyed said that they are more likely to participate in a program like Project Watershed because we provide all of these services. 
Please Join Us
We work hard to meet these objectives, and we will continue our efforts to improve and expand upon, what we feel, is a very good program.  We invite you to join us in our efforts.  The rewards found in community involvement are many.  Wade into a stream with us and see for yourself!