A review of select water education initiatives of the last 40 years
Hill, Alexandra Marie
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The Clean Water Act of 1972 brought public attention to the issues surrounding water quality and availability in the U.S. Although the Clean Water Act was not an educational initiative per se, it did provide the foundation and interest for education on water related issues. Much has been learned about sustainable water use and human effect on water quality, but not all efforts to disseminate this knowledge to the general public were successful. This author reviewed and categorized select water education initiatives implemented in the last 40 years and examined their long-term efficacy. Within the first generation, the author looked at the Chesapeake Bay cleanup and the Lake Erie cleanup along with associated education efforts. Chesapeake Bay was relatively successful as an educational effort, while Lake Erie has not had the same kind of long-term public involvement or success mitigating nutrient loading to the lake. The second generation was identified by emphasis on nonpoint source pollution and respective education efforts. Voluntary nonpoint source education was not received nor effective at the rates originally anticipated, largely because of the economic uncertainty associated with implementing best management practices. The third, and current, generation has focused on technological advances and their impacts on water rights, use and mitigation. Agricultural and environmental educators must strive to provide fast, fact-based information and to increase individual self-efficacy by modifying cultural and perceptual norms regarding historic water use. Additional research is needed on impacts from and to specific demographic water users as well as the most effective content and contexts for water resource and educational programming.