Education and involvement are seen as keys to successful management of Puget Sound water quality.
Since 1990, the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team has worked to preserve or improve the quality of Puget Sound water. Members of that team are WSU Cooperative Extension, the University of Washington, and the Washington Sea Grant Program.
Five water-quality experts use workshops, field trips, hands-on activities, and community gatherings to convey research-based, unbiased information that helps people take action to protect water quality. Sea Grant has expert educators in Mason and Kitsap counties; WSU Cooperative Extension has agents in Jefferson, Pierce, and Thurston counties.
More than 40 public and private organizations plus numerous school districts are listed among the programs cooperators.
Use of volunteers has two purposes. One is to utilize their skills and energies, the other is to build a base of citizens committed to water quality issues. Volunteers develop a sense of accomplishment and stewardship that fuels future interest in protecting Puget Sound.
The program includes many projects, such as:
- The Native Plant Salvage Project provides regional outreach and education about the role of native plants in reducing stormwater runoff, increasing groundwater recharge, and providing stream habitat. More than 200 volunteers also salvage native plants from land scheduled for clearing and give them to groups for habitat and water quality projects.
- The Recreational Shellfish Monitoring project helps local and state agencies train and involve volunteers who monitor shellfish at more than 25 recreational beaches in Jefferson, Kitsap, and Thurston counties.
- Septic Soldiers produced 23,000 charcoal packets to help track failing on-site sewage systems in Mason County. Volunteers also helped tell neighbors about the on-site sewage system testing conducted by the county and how to care for on-site sewage systems. Their efforts helped save taxpayers about $11,000 and eventually led to water quality improvements that enabled reopening 530 acres of shellfish beds for commercial harvesting.
- The Public Awareness Events project allows water quality educators to reach thousands of people each year at community events.
- The Key Peninsula Shellfish Festival celebrates the efforts of Key port provided by Elliots Oyster House, Pacific Coast Oyster Growers Association, local governments, Minterbrook Oyster Company, and other entities.
- Kids Day at OysterFest, a project that began in 1993, is a fast-paced, interactive day of education that reinforces the exploration of marine resources and environmental issues by more than 500 fourth grade students in Mason County.
- Through Training and Assistance Programs, water quality educators provide training and technical assistance that individuals, businesses, and others need to be good stewards of Puget Sound.
- Country Living workshops have involved more than 7,500 people who have learned how to best manage their land and water resources. More than 80% of participants have modified their practices to protect water resources.
- In 1998, the Nature of Hood Canal Conference brought more than 120 natural resource managers, elected officials, scientists, and residents together for a comprehensive look at current research, policy, public involvement, and management issues related to Hood Canals natural resources.
- The Sound Boater Program educates recreational boaters in Kitsap County about illegal sewage discharges and environmentally sound boat maintenance techniques. Education programs are recognized as one of the most appropriate ways to stop pollution associated with boating.
- On-site Sewage Assistance Programs help businesses, residents, and industry professionals to better manage wastewater and on-site systems.
- Realtor Education has provided training for more than 350 real estate professionals in water resource issues relevant to their industry from the values of wetlands and groundwater protection to on-site sewage system operation and maintenance.