The Master Watershed Steward Program is Thriving

Posted: September 30, 2014

The Master Watershed Steward Program is an educational Extension program that empowers citizens of the county to take action to address watershed problems throughout the region.
Master Watershed Steward volunteers take a tour of the PA American Water treatment plant.

Master Watershed Steward volunteers take a tour of the PA American Water treatment plant.

This program, based on proven models used in states throughout the country, is designed to educate volunteers to work with communities to improve the health of our water resources.

Pennsylvania’s first Master Watershed Steward Program was piloted in the Lehigh Valley in 2013 as a joint effort that included Penn State Extension, the Watershed Coalition of the Lehigh Valley, the Nurture Nature Center, the Northampton County Conservation District, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Appalachian Mountain Club.

This year the program is being developed in Montgomery County as a collaborative effort between the Appalachian Mountain Club, Natural Lands Trust, Montgomery County Planning Commission, Montgomery County Conservation District , Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Penn State Extension in Montgomery and Lehigh Counties.

To become a certified Master Watershed Steward, trainees must complete a minimum of 40 hours of training and fulfill 50 hours of volunteer service. In subsequent years, they can maintain their Master Watershed Steward status by giving at least 20 additional volunteer hours and attending at least 10 hours of continuing education training annually.

Example projects include:

  • Organizing and executing stream cleanups.
  • Designing and installing demonstration rain gardens.
  • Monitoring streams for bacteria.
  • Carrying out stream bank restoration projects.
  • Organizing educational and informational workshops that address topics such as rain barrels, wildlife, pollution prevention, stormwater management and invasive plant control.

When selecting trainees, we look for individuals who have a keen interest in the environment, a willingness to learn and most important, a strong desire to make a difference in the community. Whether you are a teacher, an accountant, a construction worker, a homemaker or retired, you can become a Master Watershed Steward.

Montgomery County’s first class of Master Watershed Stewards has 12 trainees, four men and eight women, ranging in age from 27 to 60. The trainees represent a wide variety of communities across the county, including Warminster, Ambler, Glenside, Oreland, Cheltenham, Wyncote, Blue Bell, Lansdale, North Wales, Pottstown and even Philadelphia.

The first class of volunteers has only met for a few months and there is already a waiting list of would-be trainees waiting for the next class to begin.

The Master Watershed Steward volunteer program is an exciting addition to the Penn State Extension community-based educational offerings in Montgomery County.