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Watershed U. - Training stakeholders for effective watershed management

The Issue

Conscientious watershed management considers all uses of stream water, such as drinking, irrigation, recreation and habitat, and the challenges associated with allocation, flooding and pollution control. In conducting watershed management, government agencies, business groups, landowners, and community-based and environmental organizations cross political and organizational boundaries. They may have competing interests, little knowledge of each other’s concerns, and limited communication skills. Watershed management is complicated and time consuming, but can allow for the discovery of sustainable, economical ways to manage streams.

What Has ANR Done?

Watershed U., developed by LA and Ventura counties UC Cooperative Extension Natural Resources Program, is a series of science-based courses customized for specific watersheds. Watershed U. provides an environment where stakeholders with conflicting views can form effective working relationships. In spring 2003, the first Watershed U. was developed for the Arroyo Seco, a tributary of the Los Angeles River. Over six weekly sessions, 59 speakers from 39 local agencies and organizations presented. More than 120 people from 40 agencies and organizations participated.

In 2005, Watershed U. covered the Santa Clara River, a significantly larger watershed that crosses a county boundary and contains expansive public and private land holdings. More than 120 people from 60 agencies representing a variety of viewpoints participated. Plans are under way for Watershed U. programs for the Ventura River and Compton Creek.

The Payoff

Information delivered, views expanded, relationships formed.

A 2008 follow-up survey determined that participants found lasting value in Watershed U. All the respondents said they found the program valuable, 89 percent said the information they learned would have been harder to find without the program, 75 percent felt that their effectiveness had increased due to Watershed U., and 62 percent reported they had increased their ability to communicate and developed new relationships in the course. Several respondents said they referred to the Watershed U. notebooks many times since the course to refresh their knowledge, look for contacts, or train new employees. One respondent worked with neighbors to establish a local land conservancy and another founded a committee to develop a pocket park with drought-tolerant plants. Ninety percent of respondents would recommend participation in Watershed U. to colleagues.

Clientele Testimonial

"Watershed U. was a life-changing event to me …. I became involved in the Ventura County Civic Alliance due to people I met at Watershed U." - A private watershed resident

"I'm more aware of how the different aspects of the watershed interact and am able to consider the impacts projects have on one another..." - A local government representative


Supporting Unit: Los Angeles County

Ventura County
Sabrina Drill, (323) 260-3404, sldrill@ucdavis.edu