4th UF Water Institute Symposium Abstract

Submitter's Name Lara Miller
Session Name Poster Session: Science, stakeholders and decision-making
Poster Number 29
Author(s) Lara Miller,  UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County (Presenting Author)
  Shannon McGee,  UF/IFAS Extension Polk County
  BJ Jarvis, UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County
  Lynn Barber, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County
  Watershed Education for Elected Officials, Resource Managers, and Concerned Citizens
  Note: This is an application for the UF/IFAS Symposium Scholarship. Around the globe, water availability and quality are significant issues and will continue to play a large role in the political decisions made by elected officials, resource managers, and concerned citizens. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Service hosts Water Schools in five southwestern Florida counties to provide local elected officials, county and municipal employees, community leaders, and the voting public with the background information needed to make informed decisions about water resource issues and management. The primary goal is to increase participants’ awareness and knowledge of local and regional water issues, regulatory stakeholders’ responsibilities, scientific information available, and the influence water issues have on public policy. The objective for elected officials is for the knowledge gained to be utilized in making sound policy decisions regarding future planning and development. Each Water School’s format is unique to its target audience. Water Schools bring in experts from partnering organizations, provide the opportunity for an interactive panel disucssion, and include field tours to illustrate real-life implications of the principles discussed in class. The evaluation process involves a self-assessment of knowledge gained and potential behavior change. Data collected from post-evaluations indicate participants gained knowledge and understanding of water systems and their interconnectedness to human activities within the watershed, learned of resources available to communities and governments to make better choices regarding water management, and acknowledged the need to consider potential impacts of future policy decisions on local and regional water supplies. It is imperative for all citizens to become educated about water resource issues and learn how to positively impact the future water supply and demand. Water Schools serve as an ideal platform to accomplish this goal.