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Join an Inspiring Group of Volunteers to Make a Difference

August 15, 2018

Three people weeding a gardenSometimes it’s hard to feel like you can make a difference when you contemplate the issues that are affecting our environment and communities across the region, the country and the globe. But local action can truly make positive change that we can see and experience in our neighborhoods, our cities, and our state. One way to make that local, impactful change is to get involved in the Master Water Steward program which the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District helped pilot back in 2013 in partnership with the Freshwater Society. Today, the volunteer program serves 16 watershed districts and cities and is working to expand statewide.

On their path to certification, Master Water Stewards participate in a six-session course taught by leading industry professionals that runs from October through March. The training covers a variety of topics like basic hydrology, stormwater basics, water policy, community engagement, and assessment and maintenance of rain gardens and other best management practices.

Stewards are then required to put their new-found knowledge into action by completing a capstone project in their neighborhoods. Some examples of capstone projects have included building rain gardens, installing rain barrels and cisterns, and constructing permeable walkways. Each project includes a community engagement component so that Stewards can teach their neighbors about how they can keep their local lakes and rivers clean and get involved in the effort. Following the installation of their capstone project, Master Water Stewards are required to do community outreach and continue educating others about clean water practices.

This kind of hands-on learning and community involvement has helped more than 100 individuals in the Minnehaha Creek watershed learn more about how they can promote clean water in our communities. Some examples of what Master Water Stewards have done include Terry Hammink, who led the installation of beautiful rain gardens at his townhome association in Minneapolis; Joe Knaeble, Louann Waddick, and Sue Nissen, who have been advocating for reduced road salt use and state legislation to incentivize salt reduction by private applicators; and Kristen Meyer, Arun Hejmadi, and Tal Simchoni, who worked with the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association to create pollinator gardens along East 50th Street in Minneapolis that capture and filter pollutants out of stormwater.

If you want to protect clean water in the lake or stream you care about, consider applying to join this committed group of Master Water Stewards. Applications are now being accepted for the 2018/2019 cohort. In the MCWD there is a $200 fee for course expenses and field trips, but scholarships are available for eligible applicants, so I encourage anyone who is interested to apply.

To qualify to become a Master Water Steward, you must live in a participating watershed and attend one of the information sessions that have been scheduled throughout the summer. More information about the information sessions, applying, and the program in general.

We hope you consider taking the step to becoming a Master Water Steward. The more local action we take, the more positive change we can make on our landscape, in our neighborhoods, and in our communities.