Revamped public education campaign spurs watershed awareness in Southern California

Revamped public education campaign spurs watershed awareness in Southern California
The Ventura Countywide Stormwater Quality Management Program has a revamped user-friendly website,

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By relaunching a new website and reinventing the face of its public education campaign, the Ventura (Calif.) Countywide Stormwater Quality Management Program has transformed the way residents understand stormwater management and watershed protection. 

The Ventura Countywide Stormwater Quality Management Program is a group of twelve agencies behind the Community for a Clean Watershed education campaign. Representatives from the 10 cities that comprise Ventura County and the Ventura County Watershed Protection District coordinate the program to inform residents. 

“The idea of our campaign is to get people emotionally interested enough in our watersheds to explore a little further,” says Kelly Hahs, water resources specialist for the Ventura County Watershed Protection District. 

Information on Ventura County’s four watersheds is included on the revamped, user-friendly website, “When we’re doing advertising campaigns it’s really difficult to cover so many aspects of pollution and stormwater prevention, whereas the website has it all there in one convenient place,” Hahs says. 

Website focuses education outreach 

The site also features outreach materials for residents to take learning into their own hands. Downloadable brochures for homeowners and businesses cover preventable pollutants and illicit discharges to the storm drain system. Videos and links for teachers and students guide the learning process into the classroom. 

“This group has been incredibly innovative in their outreach efforts,” says Heidi Hayes, president of theAgency, the advertising group that has developed marketing programs for the county for the past five years. “I’m so impressed with how this group looked at nontraditional means of educating the public.” 

In addition to the website, Ventura County relies on radio and television broadcasts, billboards and transit shelter posters created with the advertising agency. Currently running on local stations, the Beauty ad focuses on protecting the watershed that residents appreciate and directs people to the website.   


Surveys speak volumes

From public surveys, the county found it had reached an education plateau, which prompted the new direction. “We do benchmark studies every other year for adults and youth to measure whether we’re increasing understanding of stormwater pollution prevention and watershed protection,” Hayes says. “What we found is that we had made great strides in the first years of the outreach but awareness hit a saturation point. We wanted to see what we could do next that would engage people in a different way.”

The county changed the direction of its education campaign to provide the public with more of an explanation for protecting the watershed rather than just telling them it’s important. “It’s getting people engaged in the ownership of these watersheds,” Hayes says. “This region is so unique, so we have to protect it. We’re trying to connect with the public on more of an emotional level.”

Individual teaching tools

Comprised of 10 cities and unincorporated communities, Ventura County offers each community the ability to uniquely educate its residents. “We work with the Community for a Clean Watershed so we can have a unified educational front for the county, but then we get a little deeper with it on the city level,” says Courtney Lindberg, environmental specialist for the City of Ventura.

The city is running its own education campaign at local bus stations, which includes the posters from theAgency promoting stormwater pollution prevention. “We modified them to include the City of Ventura Environmental Sustainability Division logo,” Lindberg says. “We also do a texting campaign. We just make it really simple and educational, and hopefully interesting enough for people so they’ll be more engaged.”

The change in educating the public allows the Community for a Clean Watershed to reach Ventura County residents in a more personal way. “Previously, the county didn’t want to feel like such a heavy government agency telling people what to do,” Hayes says. “We’ve now taken a new direction where we are very much identifying Ventura County to get people more connected.”

Proactively educating the public ensures the watershed is kept clean and beautiful. “Preventing water pollution from entering the watershed is much easier and cheaper than trying to clean it up once it is out there,” Hahs says. “Clean watersheds mean clean beaches for swimming, clean water for growing food, and clean habitats for wildlife.”


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