What’s in Your Water?

Friday, September 3 2010

University of Idaho Extension to Offer Master Water Steward Training

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – University of Idaho Extension and University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene are partnering to offer training in water quality monitoring to citizens across northern Idaho.

Those interested in becoming Master Water Stewards are urged to attend an informational meeting Wednesday, Sept. 15, 6:30 p.m., at the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene, 1031 North Academic Way.

“We’re using a format similar to the Master Gardeners to educate watershed groups and other citizens who seek proficiency and certification as water quality monitors,” said Ashley McFarland, Extension educator for Benewah County who spearheaded development of the Idaho program. “We also hope to target K-12 educators, 4-H leaders and other adult volunteers that work with youth so that the next generation understands their role in maintaining watershed health.”

Courses scheduled to certify volunteers will take place in the classroom, the laboratory and the field on the evenings of Sept. 28, 29 and 30.

Master Water Steward training was developed in response to input from over 100 County Commissioners across the state – many of whom listed water quality as a priority, said McFarland.

The University of Idaho has several major programs focused on water quality. This is the first of its kind to be offered through Extension.

The northern Idaho program is funded by an $11,570 seed grant from the university and a $3,000 grant from the Coeur d’Alene Rotary. Rotary funding will go toward purchase of reusable water quality test kits to be used in the Coeur d’Alene area.

Each individual wishing to become certified must attend a workshop for $25. This fee helps offset the cost of training, meals and snacks. The informational meeting Sept. 15 is free of charge.

McFarland holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and political science, and a master’s degree in environmental science/watershed planning. She serves as Benewah County chair overseeing the agriculture, community development and 4-H programs for the county.

McFarland collaborated with a technical advisory group to modify a similar program from another state, making it directly applicable to northern Idaho. The advisory group included Glen Rothrock, Lake Management Plan coordinator for Idaho's Department of Environmental Quality; Rebecca Stevens, lake management restoration coordinator with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe; Tyson Clyne, Watershed Coordinator for the St. Joe and St. Maries Rivers in the DEQ Coeur d'Alene Regional Office; and Sid Fredrickson, Wastewater Superintendent for the City of Coeur d’Alene, among others.

Master Water Steward Training discusses how to implement accurate biological, chemical and ecological assessments, and serves as a source for research-based information for water stewards.

“The Master Water Steward program adopts a volunteer-friendly approach, teaching participants how to assess water quality in wade-able streams that feed larger bodies of water,” said McFarland. “Analysis of these tributaries allows water stewards to identify the source of pollutants before they arrive in the regions lakes and ponds.”

Due to recent budget cuts across several state and federal agencies, many of the monitoring programs the state has relied on have been drastically downsized. To fill that need, certified Master Water Stewards’ water samples will be analyzed in the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene laboratory. Volunteers also will meet annually at the University’s Coeur d’Alene facility to present and discuss data gathered from each region, providing a broad view of water quality across the Idaho Panhandle.

“Maintaining a high level of water quality in North Idaho is extremely important to residents that rely on it for drinking water and to aquatic animals that require the habitat it supports,” said McFarland. “A large part of Idaho’s economy is supported by tourism, which needs a fresh supply of water for fisheries and recreation. Water quality monitoring helps protect the biological and economic health of the region.”
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About the University of Idaho

Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.