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Mississippi Water Stewards: Development of a Statewide Citizen Water Monitoring Program
Proceedings of the 2020 Mississippi Water Resources Conference
Year: 2020 Authors: Logan K., Baker B., Sparks E., Dominguez M., Cordova S.R., Braman A.
Mississippi has ecosystems that reside in three Gulf of Mexico (GOM) watersheds; it also faces several environmental and economic barriers at local scales that limit water monitoring and protection capacity, including underserved populations and a thriving agricultural industry. To address the protection of Mississippi's local water resources and the GOM, Mississippi State Extension Service personnel have partnered with the Alabama Water Watch Program and the Pearl Riverkeeper program, with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop infrastructure for the first statewide citizen based-water monitoring and education program. The Alabama Water Watch (AWW) and Global Water Watch (GWW) Programs have been successfully applying and refining their model of community-based watershed stewardship for more than 25 years, which has gained them national and international recognition in the realm of volunteer monitoring. The Mississippi Water Stewards (MSWS) program will implement EPA-approved quality assurance plans for water chemistry and bacteriological monitoring, as well as develop plans for biomonitoring and a youth education program in three pilot watersheds in Mississippi. The implementation of MSWS will be achieved by adopting the Alabama Water Watch model. Sound development and piloting of the MSWS program will include adaptation of an administrative infrastructure, development of MSWS water monitoring manuals, facilitation of four citizen monitor certification workshops, development of a Training of Trainer (TOT) manual and the facilitation of one TOT workshop. We anticipate outcomes of this project to include the certification of 60 trained monitors, 15 MSWS trainers, the collection and submission of approximately 1000 data records by citizen monitors, development of a youth monitoring curriculum, educator workshop, and engagement of youth in watershed stewardship and monitoring by trained educators using MSWS 4-H curriculum. Protection of water resources through education and outreach to citizens will build transparency and public participation in the protection of the states' unique water resources and ecosystems, thereby protecting the GOM, fostering community involvement, and water resource protection. The MSWS program will empower citizens to use their data to bring about positive changes in their communities by influencing water policy, implementing watershed management plans, and educating others.