water-quality professionals attended the eighth biennial Southern
Region Water Quality Conference, held from Oct 28 through 31 in Gulf
The conference is the outgrowth of the Southern
Region Extension Water Quality Coordinators Planning Committee.
Organized in 1988 by Extension water-quality educators in 13 states,
the committee’s aim is to strengthen the effectiveness of
Cooperative Extension System educational programs relating to water
quality, waste management and natural resource programs.
One of the conference’s major topics of discussion
included plans to establish a regional water-quality information
system that will serve clientele throughout the region.
The database will enable water-quality professionals
in the Southern region to share critical information relating to
water quality, according to Dr. Mark McFarland, who coordinates
water-quality programs in Texas through Texas A&M University.
Texas A&M is coordinating development of the information system.
Equally important, McFarland says, is that the
information system, which will be available through the Worldwide
Web, will be designed to provide clientele from all walks of life
with convenient access to critical water-quality information and
The system will be designed to encompass every facet
of water quality, including drinking water and human health,
environmental restoration, nutrient and pesticide management,
pollution prevention, watershed management and waste management.
Local municipal leaders and planners in particular
will reap huge benefits from the new database, McFarland believes.
That’s because the system will also be equipped with a GIS
(Geographic Information System) component capable of assembling,
storing, manipulating and displaying geographically referenced
information, such as land-use or rainfall data relating to a
This tool, McFarland believes, will be especially
valuable, because it can be used by educators as well as local
county leaders and planners to accomplish a wide array of efforts
aimed at safeguarding water quality.
"They can use it for a great many things, from
land-use planning to managing watersheds for pollution
prevention," he says, "and they will be able to use it in
a highly user-friendly format."
At Auburn University, Jim Hairston, Alabama’s
Extension water quality coordinator, and John Beck, research
associate for water quality, see the database as part of a
continuing effort by the Cooperative Extension System and other
federal and state agency partners to remain on the technological
cutting edge of information delivery.
In fact, they believe new water-quality database
will be a critical step in equipping water-quality educators to meet
the challenges of a new century.
The Water Quality Conference is held once every two
years to enable water quality scientists and other professionals to
discuss and exchange ideas relating to water quality and public
Plans for the new information system were only one
of several topics discussed at the meeting.
Day two of the conference was devoted to a series of
concurrent sessions exploring more than 60 different topics dealing
with animal waste management, drinking water and human health,
watershed management, pollution prevention and environmental
In addition to the Southern Region Extension Water
Quality Planning Committee, other sponsors included the USDA
Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; Auburn
University Marine Extension and Research Center; the USDA Natural
Resources Conservation Service; EPA; Baldwin County Extension
Office; and Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
(Source: Dr. Jim Hairston, Extension Water
Quality Scientist, 334-844-3973.)