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Texas Watershed Steward program available online


WATERSHED--Training for the popular Texas Watershed Steward program is now available online and at no cost. The training consists of five modules with users having the option to receive a certificate of completion. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo.)

Texas

The Texas Watershed Steward program recently made its popular watershed steward training course available online, according to program coordinators.

"If you are unable to attend one of our many watershed steward workshops across the state, you can still benefit from all of the information simply by viewing our materials online," said Nikki Dictson, Texas AgriLife Extension Service program specialist and Texas Watershed Steward program coordinator.

Dictson said the online course can be found at http://tws.tamu.edu/online-course. The course consists of five modules, a glossary of terms and acronyms, and additional information on water quality agencies and information sources.

Those wishing to take the course can register on the site. There is no cost for the online training and no time limit for completing the course materials.

"Visitors can view the materials as a guest user or may enroll in the course to receive a certificate of completion, which requires completing all the course modules and a quick pre- and post-test," she said. "They'll also have access to all of the same information supplied in the face-to-face workshops we hold around the state."

Dictson said the Texas Watershed Steward program is implemented through a partnership between AgriLife Extension and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board. She said it is open to any individual or group interested in water quality and healthy watersheds, including landowners, urban residents, agricultural producers, conservation districts, city planners, business owners and community leaders. Funding is provided through a Clean Water Act Section 319(h) nonpoint source grant from the soil and water board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Participants who attend one of the multiple workshops held throughout the state or use our new online training will learn about watershed systems, water quality regulation and monitoring, methods to improve water quality, and community-driven watershed protection and management," she said.

Dictson said the training gives participants the basic knowledge and tools they need to form a watershed action group, participate in watershed protection activities, and become more involved in protecting and enhancing their community water resources.

She added that all watersheds in Texas are threatened by nonpoint sources of pollution and that federal and state water-resource management agencies have adopted a watershed-scale approach for managing water quality.

"One vital component of this approach involves engaging local stakeholders to become actively involved in planning and implementing water resource management and protection programs in their watershed," Dictson said. "The Texas Watershed Steward program was initiated to provide science-based, watershed education to help citizens identify and take action to address local water quality impairments."

Dictson said the online watershed steward course currently may be viewed in Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, and that course module sections can be viewed by clicking on the individual links found below each module.

"There's also a glossary of terms and acronyms that appears on the left-hand side of the screen to help online users if they are unfamiliar with a word or organization and need more information," she said.

Dictson said once visitors have completed the online training, including pre- and post-tests, they become an official Texas Watershed Steward and receive a certificate of completion.

The online course consists of five modules:

Program Introduction--the importance of watershed stewardship, the world's water, U.S. water use and Texas water facts.

Overview of Watershed Systems--what constitutes a watershed, watersheds in Texas, principles of watershed hydrology, and natural watershed features and functions.

Overview of Watershed Impairments--point and nonpoint sources of pollution, consequences of impaired water quality, water quality law and policy, and water quality testing and monitoring.

Managing to Improve Watershed Function--using the watershed approach, best management practices to protect water quality in urban areas, on agricultural land and around the home.

Community-Driven Watershed Protection and Management--the importance of local involvement in watershed protection, and how to form and sustain a community-based watershed group.

For more information on the Texas Watershed Steward program, visit http://tws.tamu.edu. For more information about either statewide face-to-face workshops and online training, contact Dictson at 979-458-3478 or ndictson@ag.tamu.edu.



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