A Florida District Develops An Extensive Library For Public Education

A Florida water management district brings an extensive online library of educational materials to teachers, the general public and other agencies.
A Florida District Develops An Extensive Library For Public Education
Students create conservation messages on posters and bookmarks as part of the Water Conservation Challenge.

Interested in Education/Training?

Get Education/Training articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Education/Training + Get Alerts

Florida’s focus on water resource management goes back to the early 1970s, when voters and lawmakers passed the Water Resources Act, creating water management districts to balance human needs for water with nature’s needs, recognizing the state’s fickle rainfall patterns.

Today, Florida is divided into five such districts to preserve and manage water resources. One of these, the St. Johns River Water Management District, is responsible for ground and surface water in all or part of 18 northeast and east-central counties.

As part of daily operations, the district sets rules for water use, conducts research, collects data, manages land, and restores and protects water above and below the ground, all while preserving natural areas. Like similar agencies around the country, it has a strong mandate to educate the public about water conservation.

Alternate sources

“We have about 110 local governments and 175 public water supply systems in our district,” says Teresa H. Monson, public communications coordinator in the district’s Office of Communications and Intergovernmental Affairs. “Our staff works closely with these partners to identify ways to extend groundwater supplies without causing environmental harm, and to help them identify alternative water sources, such as brackish water, reclaimed water, stormwater, surface water and even seawater in areas where they are hoping to desalinate.”

The district also helps its utilities with water conservation education. With more than 665 million gallons of water a day delivered to homes and businesses, the district knows one of the most important things it can do is educate about water conservation and so help provide for future growth and protect existing water users.

The St. Johns District may have one of the most extensive online water and water conservation education libraries. According to Monson, the district website has about 750 pages with numerous linked documents and multimedia materials for download, in addition to applications and databases, such as permitting or geographic information (maps, data) that the public can access.

“A great newer online resource is our water-wise plant database, so when people go to a plant nursery, they can look up plants by criteria such as size, type, color and flowering or nonflowering,” Monson says. “Then, after finding the plant that meets their parameters, they can see what kind of growing conditions — particularly water — are needed for it to survive. This will be increasingly handy as we work to help utilities educate their customers.”

Promoting science

The district worked with educational professionals to create materials for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), a national program designed to inspire, excite and prepare students for college majors and technical careers. Among the district’s work in that area:

Water Conservation Challenge enables students and teachers to extend water conservation learning to family and neighbors in a variety of creative ways.

Science Fair Zone helps students find ideas on which to base school science fair projects.

The Great Water Odyssey provides fun, interactive, Web-based educational programming about water resource protection and conservation.

The website has a dedicated section for teachers with resources for in-classroom and field use, including hands-on activities, sample lesson plans, professional development opportunities and more, all to facilitate making water part of the curriculum. Resources for students offer a variety of activities that include exploring the world of river otters, snook in the Indian River Lagoon, games and organisms that can indicate water quality.

“Last year we had about 511,000 visitors to our website and over a million page views — from people researching permits, to students doing school papers and teachers seeking teaching tools,” says Monson. “We see spikes in Web traffic related to hot news topics, such as sink holes or algae blooms.”  

In-house creations

The website is managed by the 16-person Communications and Intergovernmental Affairs office, and most of the creative development and execution is their responsibility. In addition to employing a photographer, graphic artist and webmaster, the staff handles media and public outreach, intergovernmental programs and policy analysis.

“Most of the information on the district website was created by staff to address an agency need or topic deemed important,” Monson says. “In some cases, staff or the public may bring a topic on other websites to our attention, and we share that information through a link. Or we take a concept used elsewhere but customize it to be specific to the district, such as our online home water-use survey that residents can take to identify ways to conserve.

“We invite utilities and others to link to our site, but advise against copying materials because new posts are frequent and some materials are updated daily. Additionally some of the materials and photos are copyrighted. Although there are several publications and videos that we encourage others to download, some are based on Florida water-use numbers and wouldn’t benefit those in other states. We welcome inquiries about permission to use certain materials.”

The district’s website is www.floridaswater.com, and Monson can be contacted at tmonson@sjrwmd.com.   


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.