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Water Education for Communities & Local Officials

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 The public involvement cycle

We recommend the following cycle for involving the public in stormwater management.

Each of these 6 steps involves public participation and are more fully outlined below.

  1. Identify the interested and affected public.
  2. Identify and select stormwater issues.
  3. Determine strategies for addressing stormwater issues.
  4. Implement these strategies.
  5. Involve the public in tracking the impacts of the stormwater program.
  6. Review results, repeat cycle as necessary.

1. Identify the interested and affected public.

Why? Public Involvement includes effectively identifying, engaging, and involving stakeholders. Who is affected by stormwater problems in your community? What concerns do they have and why?

How? You may have a list of stormwater complaints that can be used to identify some community members. Begin by involving these people, and then by asking community leaders about who may be affected by water resource issues. Strive to engage all economic and ethnic groups.

Tools: Public Meetings, Community Interviews (with local government staff, board members, community leaders)

2. Identify and select stormwater issues.

This step includes reaching agreement on which issues/concerns the stormwater program will address, and also providing and sharing information regarding stormwater issues.

Why? Public Involvement can help you learn what stormwater problems are present in your community. Certain issues will be mandated by the state and will of course be addressed, but specific community stormwater problems must also be addressed if you want the public to make changes and help you meet your goals. Local government staff may have a very good idea of many stormwater problems, but because staff can not be in all places at all times, the public can help inform you. For example, they may tell you which creeks flood and to what extent.

Itís important to ensure that you are addressing issues that are important to the community, and will make a difference to the quality of your water resources. All parties need to share information and listen to others about which issues are important and why. This important step includes mutual education regarding stormwater issues, and setting the goals for your stormwater management program. Donít skip this step- the problems must be identified and agreed upon before solutions can be chosen and implemented!

How? Depending on the resources available to you, issues can be identified using interviews, surveys, focus groups, public workshops, or an advisory committee. If the government chooses which issues to address, you should do so while taking into account the publicís concerns. To obtain a level of assurance that you have chosen the right issues and set the right goals, you could hold a public meeting and ask for feedback. You can also ask focus groups or an advisory group to help you decide which issues need to be addressed, and to help determine the goals for the program.

Tools: Surveys, Community Interviews, Focus Groups, Public Workshops, Citizensí Group

3. Determine strategies for addressing stormwater issues.

Why? The program strategy should be based on the issues, concerns and goals identified. Involving the public at this stage will increase the likelihood that they will help implement the strategies. Initial strategies will likely require citizen education, and may be geared toward those concerns where public distrust may be present.

How? If you have formed a citizensí group to assist with developing your program, they can be involved in determining the strategy. If you are developing your stormwater program on your own, you can conduct a public workshop or focus groups to hear feedback about the proposed strategies. As always, remember to inform the public afterwards of how their feedback was incorporated into the strategies.

4. Implement the strategies.

Why? If you have adequately involved the public in developing your stormwater program, the community will be eager to help implement it. If citizens are involved in implementing the stormwater program, other citizens may take note.

How? The public can be involved in structured activities such as storm-drain marking or stream clean-ups. Depending on the strategies developed for the stormwater program, citizens may be able to work with their own organizations or community groups (churches, service/civic clubs, schools, businesses) to help meet community stormwater goals. Working with the local media is a great way to increase the impact of these activities on the community.

Tools: Streamwatch groups, Stormdrain stenciling, Septic Socials, etcÖ

5. Involve the public in tracking the impacts of the stormwater program.

Why? Continuous feedback between the public and the local government is necessary for determining the success of the stormwater program. How is the public responding to your stormwater management program? Do citizens perceive the program as effectively reaching its goals? Is the program effectively protecting and restoring your communityís water resources? Collecting and analyzing data and feedback can provide answers to these questions.

How? Collecting and analyzing data doesnít have to be expensive- you can tailor your methods to your available resources. To obtain feedback about the success of your program, you can include surveys to citizens inserted into utility bills, and phone calls to citizens or focus groups. Consider involving school classes in collecting and analyzing information.

Tools: Surveys, focus groups

6. Review results, repeat cycle as necessary.

Based on the results, you may continue to repeat different parts of this cycle. Always report back to the public at all stages,. Depending upon your results, you may have to reassess your goals, strategies, implementation, or maybe even who was involved.