Public Education & Outreach
The CWSEC recognizes the importance of making the Consortium visible in the public eye. One way to do this is to participate in public events and festivals and maintain a presence in public spaces. Education providers have made efforts to attend festivals, fairs, conferences and other outdoor and public events to spread the message about the importance of water quality to the local culture and economy and to inform citizens on ways to reduce stormwater pollution. The educators have erected numerous displays with signage and outreach materials to reach as many event attendees as possible. In some instances, educators incorporated hands-on activities or demonstrations with their exhibits to enhance interaction with event participants. This section provides a snapshot of some of what has been done in the area of public education and outreach by the CWSEC.
- Displays at school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) events.
- Interactive displays at school Earth Day festivals.
- Displays at public festivals (e.g., Town of Surfside Beach BBQ).
- Displays at the Horry County Museum family events.
- Educational displays during Kids Appreciation Day at Apache Pier.
- Displays at the Georgetown Blessing of the Fleet Festival.
- Displays at the Hurricane Awareness Tour at the Myrtle Beach airport.
- Pet Waste educational booth at local pet adoption events.
Digital media has been and continues to be the fastest-growing portal for news and information. The education providers recognize the importance of maintaining a presence online through dedicated domains and social networking sites that are updated regularly. These web resources greatly enhance the CWSEC’s ability to transfer knowledge and are vital to comprehensive stormwater education.
Television & Radio
When residents were surveyed as a part of the Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors Telephone Assessment conducted in the summer of 2009, respondents indicated their primary source for local information was the evening television news. With this information, the education providers have continued use of television media for the dispersal of watershed and stormwater pollution messages as well as pollution messages that related to current news.
Radio is a valuable resource for conveying current information to a wide variety of audiences. It also helps spread the message to audiences during the work day that may not be reached by television media.
Publications, articles, and manuscripts are time-tested tools for recording and disseminating important information. CWSEC educators use newspaper media not only to publicize events and accomplishments but also to improve awareness about stormwater pollution and the efforts the general public can make to preserve water resources. In addition to newspaper media, educators have created manuals and guidance documents to inform citizens about special topics such as rain gardens, vegetated buffers, and more. Also, educators have submitted manuscripts describing research and educational impacts to conference proceedings.
Newsletters are an additional means used by CWSEC and its partners to communicate upcoming events, recent accomplishments, new resources, and overall news. Typically, the audience includes organizations that are a part of this regional initiative as well as interested members of the general public. The CWSEC’s E-Newsletter is also distributed monthly to consortium members and others who are interested in local stormwater topics. This aides communication of CWSEC activities and other stormwater-related topics.
Concepts with as many stakeholders and with such complex dynamics as monitoring and conserving a watershed as large as the Waccamaw River Basin warrant comprehensive attention that cannot be achieved through isolated presentations and workshops alone. They require a conference, which brings stakeholders and the public together to learn about and discuss basin-wide challenges and solutions. Some of the numerous conferences include the South Carolina Water Resources Conference, the annual Waccamaw Conference, and public Data Conferences presenting information on the Waccamaw River Volunteer Monitoring Project to volunteers, funders, the media, and the public.
Regular lectures and presentations provide an effective avenue to convey important information about a specific topic directly to a captive audience. The education providers use this tool extensively to inform target audiences of all types about their impacts on stormwater and local water quality. Presentations that have been given by the education providers are so effective that demand for these activities continues to increase, and more groups are contacting the CWSEC educators to speak at their events. Lectures and presentations about stormwater topics are being given in schools, service club meetings, community events, HOA/POA meetings, home shows, conferences, councils, advisory boards and other venues.
Some stormwater concepts are complicated and require more in-depth coverage and audience interaction than can be achieved with lectures and presentations alone. For this reason, CWSEC educators coordinate interactive workshops, seminars with multiple sessions and day camps for kids that involve hands-on activities, tours of facilities and generally greater depth of coverage. These workshops and seminars enable the educators to teach practical application of the stormwater management concepts and give the workshop participants the opportunity to practice their new skills to empower them to engage their neighbors, co-workers and employees in the protection of water resources.
In order to maintain strong working relationships with stakeholders, regulators and partnering agencies, CWSEC educators coordinate and participate in numerous meetings each year. In some meetings, the educators serve in an advisory capacity, while in other meetings they coordinate joint initiatives and events. Meetings attendees are made aware of what the CWSEC is and does through the presence of the CWSEC education provider. The presence of CWSEC educators help to increase interagency communication and connectivity for the benefit of watershed management and protection. Some of these regular meetings include the Town of Surfside Beach’s Stormwater Committee meetings, Horry County Stormwater Advisory Board meetings, City of Conway’s Water Quality and Drainage Commission meetings, South Carolina Green Steps School Program meetings, and more. introduced Leigh Wood, new CTP Coordinator and discussed swash basin water quality research.
Engaging citizens in community cleanups has been and continues to be effective at involving the general public in protecting water resources and reducing stormwater pollution. CWSEC educators coordinate numerous river and beach sweeps each year to provide concerned citizens with an opportunity to improve the condition of local water resources. Several tons of litter are removed from water courses each year by the volunteers at these events. Educators also encourage recycling programs and support local efforts to dispose of hazardous materials responsibly by coordinating events with sanitation departments and waste authorities.
Some stormwater management concepts are best taught through demonstration, especially how to design, construct and maintain structural best management practices such as rain gardens and rainwater harvesting systems. CWSEC educators have taken demonstration projects to the next step by involving the target audiences in the actual construction or implementation of the installation project. In this way, demonstrations and installations of stormwater best management practices can engage the public in a manner that gives them a chance to participate in water resource protection. At some projects, educational signage has been placed to provide continued education. While these demonstrations serve primarily as teaching tools, these projects also provide a tangible, long-term benefit to stormwater management at the host site. Examples of these demonstrations include shoreline buffer/bog garden installations with educational signage, a floating wetlands and shorescaping demonstration sites in the Palmetto Glen HOA and at the McLean Park in North Myrtle Beach, and rain garden installations at multiple local schools.
The CWSEC views volunteer monitoring as a critical part of its mission. Not only does it engage citizens in water resource protection, it also bears valuable information that helps the CWSEC evaluate changes in surface water quality and direct its outreach strategies. Volunteer monitoring also encourages grassroots advocates for clean, usable rivers and beaches to be intimately involved in the public protection of water resources. Horry and Georgetown Counties, the City of Conway, and the Town of Surfside Beach support volunteer water quality monitoring programs that run collaboratively with Coastal Carolina University’s Waccamaw Watershed Academy.
- For over ten years, volunteers have been monitoring water quality on the Waccamaw River. The program began with 12 sites in South Carolina in 2006 and expanded to include an additional 6 sites in North Carolina in 2011. A total of 50 volunteers sample twice monthly from Lake Waccamaw to the Winyah Bay.
- Since 2009, Coastal Carolina University undergraduate student science majors have been monitoring water quality on campus. Three sites have been monitored biweekly starting in 2011.
- Surfside Beach Volunteer Monitoring Program launched in June 2010. Volunteers recruited, trained and implemented monitoring. Two sites are monitored by 6 volunteers.
- Since June 2008, 18 volunteers measure water quality bi-weekly at eight sites in the Murrells Inlet watershed. The science plan for the MI monitoring program has the following goals: (1) Identify hot spots on land that are significant sources of polluted runoff to the Inlet and (2) Provide baseline data that will document improvements in water quality as stormwater management activities are implemented.