On Your Doorstep Issue 1 - Page 20

Whose brainchild was the project?

The Watershed Project started as the Aquatic Outreach Institute. It was the brain child of a group of concerned scientists working to restore the San Francisco Bay, who wanted to hire professional educators to help communicate the science of shoreline, marsh and creek restoration to the general public, in order to gain support and community engagement to speed up the recovery of the Bay’s ecosystems.

The Aquatic Outreach Institute was renamed in 2003 as The Watershed Project with the idea that the organization will work not only in aquatic ecosystems but in all the land and waterways of the San Francisco Bay. The name is meant to raise awareness about the holistic approach of the organization to land- water education and stewardship.

What was the final straw/catalyst that turned the idea into reality? When did it start?

The idea was turned into reality when the group decided that they needed to separate the Aquatic Outreach Institute from the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) and become an independent non-profit organization in order to gain momentum. SFEI was changing direction and the outreach component was not part of the strategic plan. So in 1997, the Aquatic Outreach Institute filed for non-profit status and registered as an independent organization.

Why watersheds, rather than any other environmental problem?

Watersheds are the most holistic way of looking at all of our environmental problems. We all live in a watershed. A watershed describes where rainwater flows down to. It includes waterways such as rivers, creeks, lakes, reservoirs, the Bay and the ocean. At the same time, the land that we live on is a part of a watershed. Green spaces such as the forests, prairies, and marshes are in our watershed, but so are the cities that include our roads, sidewalks, and houses.

A watershed-approach goes to the core of how, as a society, we see water as a valued resource. Water flows through the land shaping valleys and ridges making its way into the San Francisco Bay. Water entering the San Francisco Bay Watersheds, from rain or pipes, not only serves our utility companies, for aqueducts and irrigation systems, but that water also serves as an important element of how our natural ecosystem functions, the natural ecosystem in which we live and share with other species. There is nature in the urban ecosystem, and all of us very much depend on those water resources that flow though the land, as well as under it.

When the water resources of an ecosystem are disrupted, the entire ecosystem suffers. If the water is polluted with pesticides, trash, oils, soaps and heavy metals from the road, the entire community of animals


The Watershed Project

The Watershed Project is committed to inspiring Bay Area communities to understand, appreciate and protect local watersheds.

They are working to restore and preserve the unique ecosystems that make up the San Francisco Bay. They bring a watershed perspective to the urban environment, promoting green design and supporting natural cycles, engage students, teachers and classroom volunteers, in creek beds and on the shoreline, giving them the tools to create and care for healthy watersheds. They reach out to support grassroots watershed organizations and nurture young people who aspire to environmental careers defending precious natural resources.

We all have the power to protect our local watersheds. Exercise your power!

Karen chatted with Executive Director Juliana Gonzalez. Here's what she had to say.

You can find more information about the Watershed Project here.