Stormwater impacts us all. Stormwater is the water that runs off hard surfaces like parking lots into storm drains and eventually our river. When we cover the land with hard, impervious, surfaces, we cause two problems: we get less water recharging our groundwater, and we cause pollution and physical changes in our rivers. The pollution comes from lawn fertilizer, gasoline, oil, road salt, and heavy metals from cars. The increased ‘flashiness’ and flow change river banks and ruin fish habitat.
The Northern Middlesex Council of Governments and the Merrimack River Watershed Council received two years of funding (2012-2014) from EPA’s 2012 Urban Waters Small Grants program to connect communities through stormwater education.
The grant, recently completed, focused on outreach, education, and behavioral change. We first listened to diverse Merrimack residents to identify what connects them to the river and their drinking water. We then created different messages to change behavior among the diverse communities making up this region.
Some of our accomplishments were:
- We worked with 128 community members through workshops and educational sessions.
- We formed 13 formal partnerships with the following: the City of Lowell, the Towns of Dracut, Tewksbury, and Tyngsborough, the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, American Public Works Association, the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce, RUMBO (the bilingual Spanish-English newspaper for Greater Lowell), Mill City Grows, Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, Town of Chelmsford, Tsongas Industrial History Center, and the National Park Service/Lowell National Historic Park.
- We wrote a “How-to” Manual on tailoring a stormwater education and outreach program for many different communities. This manual focuses on developing effective local messaging, and developing an effective local stormwater education program.
- We also created a Train-the-Trainer program which will allow citizens to educate city and town governments, along with their fellow citizens, on better stormwater management and outreach programs.
- We created 19 visual ads to help reduce water pollution.