Water: Outreach & Communication
- A 1998 NEETF/Roper survey found that less than a third of American adults could select the definition of a watershed from a simple multiple choice quiz, and there is reason to believe that less than 1 percent could define one if you asked them point blank. Just 25 percent of Americans even know where their water originates even though the vast majority consumes water directly from the tap.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation (NEETF) have teamed up with a number of public and private partners, including Stormcenter Communications, the National Ocean Service, the U.S. Forest Service, several foundations and others in a collaborative project to use local TV weather reports as a means to teach people about watersheds and to raise the environmental I.Q. of the American public. Weather forecasts offer the ideal opportunity for meteorologists to convey important environmental information to the American public - information that is relevant to their daily lives.
Earth Gauge Newsletter
In June 2005, NEETF launched Earth Gauge with TV stations in Atlanta, GA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Miami, FL; Providence, RI; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, DC. Together, these cities reach more than 20 million Americans. The weekly environmental information service, which is tied to the 3-5 day forecast, is targeted at weathercasters in US media markets and distributed in partnership with AMS Broadcast Seal Holders and The Weather Channel. Earth Gauge is designed to make it easy for weathercasters to explain the environmental implications of weather events, and what viewers can do to help address those implications. Two recent Earth Gauge newsletters discuss the importance of coastal wetlands http://www.earthgauge.net/EGKatrinaWetlands.pdf [BROKEN] (PDF, 291 KB, 2 pages, about PDF) and the environmental implications of Hurricane Katrina on wildlife and habitat http://www.earthgauge.net/EGKatrinaWildlife.pdf [BROKEN] 0 KB, 1 page, about PDF).
Examples of Station Participation
Broadcast meteorologists can look to some of their colleagues for ideas on how they can report on watershed issues. Below are some examples of what a few leading meteorologists and television stations are doing:
- WRC TV Washington, DC
- KYW TV Philadelphia, PA
- KARE TV Minneapolis, MN
- KVUE TV Austin, TX
- WSFA TV Montgomery, AL
- WKRG TV Mobile, Al
- NBC 10 Providence, RI's Narragansett Bay Watershed Report
- WPTZ Plattsburgh, NY's news stories about Lake Champlain [BROKEN]
- The Weather Channel and EPA's "After the Storm" television program on watersheds
New On-line Watershed Training for Broadcast Meteorologists
The American Meteorological Society (AMS) is also behind a long-term goal to train broadcast meteorologists across the country to serve as "station scientists" who can expertly cover environmental and science content. AMS worked with the Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET), NEETF and other partners to develop a new training course about watersheds for meteorologists. This new distance learning moduleis now part of AMS' continuing education and recertification program. The course, developed under a grant from the U.S. EPA, is posted at http://www.comet.ucar.edu/.
The course is a primer on how weather events relate to the health of a watershed, and how the public can take simple actions to protect watershed health. The on-line curriculum, while intended for meteorologists, is also highly useful for land use managers, teachers, community leaders, and others interested in learning more about watersheds. It contains a collection of graphics that make it easy for meteorologists and other to explain watersheds visually.
We encourage you to contact your local TV meteorologist and work with them to get them to share water quality messages on the air. Please help us add to this list of examples by working with your local TV station so that "watersheds" will one day become a household word.