9.6 Develop and deliver collaborative water quality education and outreach using local partnerships and networks

Key Message: Collaborative education and outreach that capitalizes on trusted local networks, embraces multi-cultural communication, and skillfully delivers consistent and creative science-based messages can inspire and motivate homeowners, students, bay users and other audiences to reduce their nutrient pollution footprint.

Importance

More education and outreach is needed to raise awareness and support for water quality protection and restoration and to encourage individual action to reduce nutrient pollution. Connecting community values such as quality of life, public health, recreation, sense of pride and place, and economic drivers like tourism and real estate, to water quality is an effective strategy for success. Other frames of reference include local food, harmful algal blooms, and water heritage. Educating citizens about ways to reduce their nutrient pollution footprint, such as following the fertilizer ordinance, picking up pet waste, or maintaining their septic system, is important for directly reducing nonpoint source pollution.

Multiple benefits can be achieved by developing and delivering collaborative education and outreach using local partnerships and networks. The most effective messaging skillfully weaves science, art, psychology, culture, and marketing. Using a collaborative process to develop messaging brings many of these disciplines together. Messages are deemed by the public to be most credible when they come from trusted, local voices. People are more likely to change attitudes or behaviors when they receive identical or similar messages from multiple sources across the community. Small modifications to messages shared across a network can be used to target special interests, like translating content into multiple languages or focusing on interests in birds, fish, or recreation. The established credibility of a network can also facilitate trusted communication with business sectors, like tourism and real estate. Local networks provide cost efficiencies, including leveraging organizational investments in experienced education and outreach specialists, active websites, email lists, snail mail lists, and annual festivals and events (see Chapter 9.5)

Girls Inc excursion to the Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility for world-class birding. Source: Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Overview

Water quality education and outreach is developed and delivered by a variety of organizations working at national to local levels.

National

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides education about water quality and nutrient pollution and how individuals can reduce their impacts. EPA’s National Estuary Programs provide direct local outreach to Sarasota County.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides education about coastal water quality and nutrient pollution and how individuals can reduce their impacts. NOAA offers professional development workshops that can be held in Sarasota County (see Chapter 9.5).

North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) works with partners across North America to accelerate environmental literacy and civic engagement. NAAEE hosts signature programs, advocacy, conferences, and other activities, but does not provide direct local outreach in Sarasota County.

State

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) produces educational materials that are available online. FDEP’s Florida Nonpoint Educators Network (FNEN) facilitates networking and collaboration among stormwater pollution educators in the state. FNEN develops workshops, webinars, and template materials to share ideas and strategies and facilitate development of better education and outreach. FNEN does not have a strong influence in Sarasota County.

Florida Department of Health (FDOH) produces educational materials on water quality at swimming beaches that are available online.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) produces educational materials on a variety of fishing, boating, and marine wildlife issues related to water quality that are available online.

Florida Marine Science Educators Association (FMSEA) is a professional organization of individuals and organizations that advance the cause of marine education in Florida. FMSEA members have access to their professional learning community, regional outings, workshops, and conferences. FMSEA does not provide direct outreach in Sarasota County.

League of Environmental Educators in Florida (LEEF) advances environmental literacy and stewardship in Florida through its 200+ members working in schools, nature centers, zoos, youth organizations, science research stations, and universities. LEEF does not provide direct outreach in Sarasota County.

Regional

Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) produces educational materials that are available online and distributed at local outreach at events and festivals. In the past, SWFWMD has funded education and outreach conducted by the Science and Environment Council in the Sarasota County area.

Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) and Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership (CHNEP) develop and deliver education and outreach about water quality and best practices for homeowners and businesses to reduce their nutrient pollution footprint. They produce educational materials, maintain informational websites, host and attend area events and festivals, and lead a variety of activities including informational hikes, paddles, citizen-science projects, cleanups, invasive species removals, native plantings, and other habitat restoration activities (see Chapter 1.5, Chapter 2.5, Chapter 4.4, Chapter 5.2, Chapter 7.1, Chapter 7.2, Chapter 7.3, and Chapter 7.4).

Sarasota Bay Estuary Program educational kayak excursion. Source: Sarasota Bay Estuary Program

Science and Environment Council (SEC) develops and delivers water quality education and outreach throughout the Sarasota area, including flyers, posters, rack cards, story sheets, social media posts, web content, large format displays, and educational surveys, contests, and games. The SEC is a non-profit network of 40 leading science-based educational organizations working in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. For more than a decade, SEC has developed successful water quality outreach and education collaborations with Sarasota County Government, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, which reach hundreds of thousands of people each year (see Chapter 1.5, Chapter 2.5, Chapter 4.4, Chapter 7.1, and Chapter 7.4). In addition, member organizations also develop and deliver water quality education and outreach in Sarasota County.

Phillippi Creek Paddle Cleanup organized by Science and Environment Council and partners Sarasota Bay Watch and Sarasota County Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team. Source: Ernesto Lasso de la Vega

Sarasota County

UF/IFAS Sarasota County Extension and Sustainability is a partnership between UF/IFAS and Sarasota County which develops and delivers water quality outreach and education in Sarasota County (see Chapter 4.4, Chapter 4.5, Chapter 4.6, Chapter 4.7, Chapter 5.3, Chapter 7.1, Chapter 7.2, Chapter 7.3, and Chapter 7.4). Ongoing programs with water quality components include:

  • Residential Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Education
  • Master Gardener Volunteer Program
  • Homeowners Association Consultations: Landscapes and Stormwater Ponds
  • Landscape Industry Best Management Practices Trainings
  • Agriculture Best Management Practices Education
  • Sustainable Energy and Transportation Education
  • Florida Waters Stewardship Program
  • Florida Microplastics Awareness Project

Sarasota County Government provides outreach about water quality through its Stormwater Environmental Utility. It supports the Sarasota County Water Atlas, which provides access to real-time and historical water quality data, educational materials, and upcoming events and volunteer opportunities (see Chapter 9.4). The stormwater utility also manages the Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST), which provides water quality education and project assistance at the neighborhood level (see Chapter 7.1 and Chapter 7.2).

Approach

Fund the collaborative development and delivery of water quality education and outreach using public health, quality of life, and property values as relevant framing for communication on nutrient management. Immediate needs include: 

  1. Messaging about best management practices (BMPs) for central sewer systems, such as not flushing disposable wipes (see Chapter 1.5).
  2. Messaging about septic system BMPs such as regular inspection and maintenance and upgrades to advanced technologies (see Chapter 2.5).
  3. Messaging about the key elements of Sarasota County’s urban fertilizer ordinance (see Chapter 4.3 and Chapter 4.4).
  4. Messaging about appropriate fertilization techniques in conjunction with use of nutrient rich reclaimed irrigation water on golf course and athletic fields (see Chapter 4.5)
  5. Messaging using local food, food waste, and composting to frame communication about nutrient management (see Chapter 4.7).
  6. Messaging on the link between gas-powered vehicle and equipment emissions and water pollution (see Chapter 5.2).
  7. Development of a comprehensive homeowner BMP guide for water quality improvement practices and projects (see Chapter 7.1).
  8. A public opinion survey about community values tied to water quality, assessing perceptions, attitudes, and preferences for solutions to nutrient pollution.
  9. A water quality communication strategy in partnership with Visit Sarasota County, Argus Foundation, Sarasota Tiger Bay, chambers of commerce, business alliances, and the media.
  10. Messaging on blue-green algae and red tide, including impacts on environmental and public health.

Resources

Science and Environment Council, UF/IFAS Sarasota Extension, Sarasota County Government Stormwater Environmental Utility, Sarasota County Water Atlas, CHNEP Water Atlas, SBEP, CHNEP

Status

Planning

Performance Measure

  • Number of new educational materials produced
  • Number of people reached

Experts or Leads

Science and Environment Council, UF/IFAS Sarasota Extension, Sarasota County Stormwater Environmental Utility, SBEP, CHNEP

Cost Estimate

$100,000-$1,000,000

Related Activities

Chapter 1.5, Chapter 2.5, Chapter 4.4, Chapter 4.5, Chapter 4.6, Chapter 4.7, Chapter 5.2, Chapter 5.3, Chapter 7.1, Chapter 7.2, Chapter 7.3, Chapter 7.4, Chapter 9.4, Chapter 9.5

 

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Other Coordination and Collaboration Activities

9.3 Inventory, develop, and coordinate grant funding

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