What It Takes to Improve Water Quality

Sitting Down with Hannah Barg by Katlyn Edwards

Have you heard of the Clean Water Education Partnership, or CWEP? 

I hadn’t, until I got the chance to sit down with Hannah Barg, AmeriCorps Fellow for CWEP and a fellow intern at TJCOG. Hannah explained that the Clean Water Education Partnership — CWEP — is a collaborative organization reminiscent of it’s parent (TJCOG): a system made up of 39 different members, all striving to come together and think about how to better improve their community — and in this case — better improve their water quality. 

Local government members pool resources to staff a team at TJCOG focused on reducing waterway pollution and increasing public knowledge on water quality issues. Until recently, CWEP staff achieved this by focusing on one major avenue — mass media. This form of outreach allowed CWEP to get in contact with a broad audience through web banners, movie theatre ads, and more — but of course, this approach aims to reach the masses and spread messages about clean water to anyone who will listen.

Hannah is working on a new focus area for CWEP, direct education. This type of outreach can be more targeted to specific communities and provide more hands-on education to local residents. Hannah attends events hosted by CWEP’s communities and teaches attendees stormwater tips and tricks — where does the stormwater go, what kinds of animals live in storm drains, how can residents prevent storm water pollution, etc. Her audience ranges from adults to children — the information she provides is both useful to adults who currently have the power to improve water cleanliness, but also to the children who will one day be making those decisions themselves.

Currently, Hannah works to get to each community at least once a year — an total of 39 different visits — but is trying to increase that number. However, this is a tricky process; communities range in size and have different resource needs. To address this challenge, Hannah is working to expand the definition of direct education. While it does include specific training and event opportunities with Hannah, it can also include “Train the Teachers” where Hannah leads educators through lessons so they can continue to teach about stormwater on their own.

As I spoke to Hannah, I found her own excitement about CWEP infectious, especially as Hannah shared her favorite part about working with CWEP: seeing the results.

One example: Hannah was working with a group of students on a project where they acted out a Town Hall meeting; small groups represented a different constituent in the water community and the students engaged in a debate over how to best address issues such as the construction of a dam, how to improve their overall watershed, and more. As Hannah watched the results of her teaching play out in front of her, she also got to watch the students’ come to an important realization: Water challenges are related to everything.

Moving forward, what does Hannah hope to see from the program’s new education efforts? More opportunities to go into local communities and work directly with the younger generation. After all, learning from a young age about the impact and importance of water health is a vital lesson to encourage involvement and engagement later on in life.

Wondering if your community already has access to water education resources? See if you are a CWEP member here.

To follow along with Hannah’s work and see when she is in your community, follow CWEP_NC on Instagram!

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