The ACES Water Program is the Extension hand of the Auburn Water Resource Center. Lead by Eve Brantley and her outreach team, the goal of the water program is to make a positive impact on water quality issues throughout Alabama. This is accomplished through on-the-ground Extension and outreach, watershed resource planning, education, and behavior change initiatives. By empowering communities, farmers, cities, and schools to become better stewards of their water resources, the water program facilitates multi-year grant-funded projects that use a community-led, watershed-based approach to remediating impaired urban waters and planning for a more sustainable future.
- Work with the Auburn University Water Resources Center to bring water stewardship education and outreach to Alabama communities.
- Apply for and implement grants with local stakeholders involved in identifying and addressing sources of water pollution in their area.
- Develop social and physical strategies to improve water quality.
- Develop educational materials around water quality.
- Promote sustainable management of Alabama’s water resources.
- Eve Brantley, Alabama Extension specialist and director of the Auburn University Water Resource Center
- Laura Bell, water programs project manager
- Jessica Curl, water programs project manager
- Adam Newby, water resources research associate
To learn more about programs or ways you can get involved, email the team at ACESWater@auburn.edu. Also, stay up-to-date on project developments and ongoing events by following the ACES Water Program on Instagram or Facebook.
Current Projects and Programs
Alabama Watershed Stewards
About. Alabama Watershed Stewards (AWS) is a science-based educational program designed for the general public that promotes healthy watersheds, increases understanding of water pollution, and provides knowledge and tools to prevent and resolve local water quality problems. The program features the following:
- In-person training events that include practical information about local watersheds groups, partnership opportunities, and provide engaging tools for encouraging individuals to take leadership roles in improving their local water quality.
- An online course on watershed stewardship open to the public.
- Technical training events intended to build technical capacity in Alabama.
- Civic engagement opportunities.
Organized by the ACES Water Program and Alabama Water Watch, the program is funded by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management Non-point Source Unit through a Clean Water Act Section 319 Partnership Grant.
Goal. The goal of the program is to deeply engage Alabama residents with the role they can play as stewards of their local environments, and to provide people with the tools they need to make a meaningful impact in their own watershed.
Results. The AWS program offers an education curriculum and hands-on training. The educational curriculum is offered as both a virtual, week-long, self-paced course and a one-day, in-person course. The curriculum uses a combination of video lectures, discussions, and resources, to introduce participants to the basics of watershed function, water quality parameters and watershed impairments, best management practices for improving water quality, the role of community leadership and watershed planning, and more. The program also consists of more in-depth training opportunities, including workshops on how to install rain gardens, conduct local litter pickups, install rain barrels, and information for designers and engineers on installing other green infrastructure practices.
More information about this program is available under the Watershed Stewardship tile at www.aces.edu.
Alabama Private Well Program
About. The Alabama Private Well Program (APWP) is an educational program funded by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. This program emphasizes private well water topics with agency partners, Extension staff, and citizens to address common questions and concerns, identify issues, set research priorities, and establish a well owner network.
Thousands of Alabama residents rely on private water systems for for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing. In fact, The Alabama Office of Water Resources reported that 11% of the population in Alabama relied on private wells in 2015. With well ownership comes a specific set of responsibilities, as private well owners are responsible for the maintenance, testing, and treatment of their own water system. Wells can become contaminated through improper construction practices, failed maintenance, or poor stewardship practices around the well. Carefully monitoring and keeping a detailed record of the well can help in preventing future problems from occurring, while continuous testing can help assure safe drinking water quality for households utilizing the private well.
Goal. This program increases the access to private well resources to empower, engage, and equip well users with the resources needed to protect their water systems. Core values of the program include the following:
- Delivering meaningful information to homeowners with private wells.
- Educating well owners on the importance of proper well stewardship.
- Serving as a resource for well owners and Extension personnel to obtain answers and information.
Outcome. The program consists of online and physical resources that provide educational information around the basics of well water and well ownership, including how and where individuals can get their private well-water tested, how to take a sample and interpret results, common issues experienced, and more.
More information about this program is available under the Private Well Program tile at www.aces.edu.
Sustainable Irrigation Expansion Project
About. The ACES Water Program partners with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee (SWCC), and the University of Alabama in Huntsville to prepare watershed plans that inform the sustainable expansion of irrigation in selected watersheds.
Goal. The goal of the watershed plans is to sustainably expand irrigation to farmers in Alabama through careful watershed planning. The plans must demonstrate that putting more acres under irrigation in the watershed area can be done in a manner that supports agriculture and rural economies while minimizing impacts to environmental and cultural resources. Farmers that apply to the program through Alabama SWCC and are approved can get a 50% cost-share reimbursement for irrigation infrastructure costs so long as the irrigation system is designed following the watershed plan guidelines.
Results. The Middle Tennessee River Basin plan is approved, and funds have been dispersed to farmers. In 2021, irrigation was expanded to about 865 acres in the basin. The Choctawhatchee and Pea Watersheds plan was approved in early 2022. A plan for the Middle Alabama watershed is currently being developed. Farmers interested in learning more about financial assistance available through this program should contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District office.
More information about this program is available under the Watershed Planning tile at www.aces.edu. Visit www.alconservationdistricts.gov to learn more about watershed assessment.
Program contact. Adam Newby