Water Stewardship Program

Reader Contribution by Cindy Murphy
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 Earth Day is right around the corner, and many of us are already striving to live in a more sustainable way, and understand how our actions affect the planet and future generations. 

 I consider myself “green-minded,” to include water conservation and water stewardship.  Instead of bottled water, we fill reusable containers with tap water, and only run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads.  I don’t fertilize my lawn out of concern run-off will get into the creek on my property, which flows directly into Lake Michigan.  Shoot – I don’t even water the lawn, letting it go dormant in the hottest months.  I include elements of xeriscaping in much of my landscape, and we have a rain barrel to water all the potted plants and flower boxes.  We could use 2 or 3 more barrels, actually, for use in the vegetable garden.  Yes, there is always room for improvement, but I thought I was doing pretty well.  Then I took a water conservation survey, and received a paltry score of 65 out of 100 possible points (a couple of aging vehicles, and my and my teenage daughter’s penchant for long, hot showers are downfalls).  The survey labeled me “olive green.”

I don’t consider olive green to be a particularly pretty color.  Obviously, some changes are needed, so I decided to take an on-line training program in water stewardship.

The survey and the training program are offered on a website developed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and both the Eaton and Van Buren Conservation Districts.  The aim of Michigan Water Stewardship Program is to improve local water quality and to protect the Great Lakes, but is applicable to anyone anywhere interested in having a better understanding about how to conserve and safeguard water.  Stating that “everyone can’t do everything, but everyone can do something,” the site presents simple changes and steps that any homeowner can make to benefit our world’s water supply.

The free on-line training program can be found on the site’s “Environmental Campus”.  The program’s objectives are to help residents identify environmental concerns in and around their homes, to help both save money and better manage natural water resources by encouraging them to preventive actions to safeguard the environment.

Sixteen courses are offered in the program, each taking only 5 to 10 minutes to complete, covering topics such as watersheds, managing your home for energy savings, and preventing environmental risks in your yard.   Each course consists of a lesson, and a multiple choice assessment.  It’s extremely user-friendly, allowing you to pick-and-choose specific courses that interest you, take them in no particular order, and review if needed.  The really nice thing about how this is designed is that the assessments can be taken before and/or after completing the lesson.  It can also be revisited at later dates as many times as you wish in order to mark your progress over time as you implement some of the strategies within the course.

In addition to the “Environmental Campus”, the easy-to-navigate website is packed with loads of information.  If you’d rather not take the stewardship program, in the homeowners section you’ll find tips for making easy and positive environmental changes; in the category of “Youth Steward” there are videos, games, and activities.  Under the heading “Educators”, there are classroom activities and lesson plans.  And of course, there’s the “How Green Are You?” water survey….

It was Kermit the frog who said, “It’s not easy being green”; it takes some effort to break old habits.  Any effort is worthwhile, though, to shed the drab olive, and grow to be a bright, verdant green instead.

If you’d like to become a water steward, check out Michigan Water Stewardship Program.

Happy Earth Day! How do you plan to celebrate?

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