Never underestimate the power of volunteers.
Savvy stormwater managers have long recognized that it’s not only their paid employees who put in dedicated labor for the watershed. There are others willing to collect water samples, stencil “No dumping” signs on storm drains, clear overgrown vegetation, and keep an eye out for sources of pollutants.
They might be members of environmental groups, school kids working on a class project, senior citizens, members of a homeowners association, or people united by a common interest such as fishing or boating in the local lake. Something motivates them to take an interest in the surrounding waterways, and most of them—whether they’re doing it for a brief time or are in it for the long haul—take the work very seriously. That seems to be especially true when they have a vested interest in the lake or stream, and also when someone—a biologist or stormwater manager—takes the time to work with them, to explain what needs to be done and why and how to do it.
In Virginia, for example, members of the Lake Iroquois Association are gathering samples of algae and delivering them to labs, as well as taking on other tasks for which adequate time and funding might not exist if they all had to be performed by paid employees.
Does your program rely on volunteers? What have you found are the most useful things they do—or are there some jobs they’ve taken on that you feel are better left to professionals? Do you have any advice for working smoothly with individual volunteers or groups?