Conservation Education Programs of the TWDB September 2011

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) Conservation Division offers numerous educational programs that build understanding of water conservation and water resources across the state.  Throughout the state’s history, Texans have faced many challenges in water management, including the seven-year drought of record in the 1950s and the current record-breaking drought.  Given the state’s “bottom-up” approach to water planning, an educated citizenry is vital to the success of water management in our future.  The recognition of this is evident in the TWDB’s mission statement: To provide leadership, planning, financial assistance, information, and education for the conservation and responsible development of water for Texas.

The TWDB’s scientific research and state water plan form the cornerstone for the agency’s educational programs.  These programs include K-12 school-based programs, training and workshops for adults, distribution of conservation literature, and outreach and awareness programs targeted at both municipal and agricultural audiences statewide.

The TWDB has long considered school-based programs as a best management practice in water conservation that affects both current and future water use.  The information students learn now is often shared with their parents and affects current water use patterns.  Students with an understanding of the importance of water are also more likely to make life-long behavioral changes to conserve water.

To better serve the school-based audience, TWDB Kids was created as the web portal to the agency’s K-12 educational resources.  The website features visualizations, interactive games, and other activities to help students, educators, and parents learn about key concepts in water resources and conservation.  All of the TWDB’s major educational programs were designed with the assistance of Texas educators and are aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in order to meet requirements for acceptable classroom curricula.

The Major Rivers water education program, developed for 4th and 5th grade students and based on a program developed by the Lower Colorado River Authority, has over 20 years of history in Texas classrooms.  Major Rivers and his horse Aquifer teach students where their water comes from, how to protect water resources, how water is treated, and how to use water wisely.  Major Rivers currently reaches an average of 51,000 students across Texas each year.  Water supply entities such as river authorities, groundwater conservation districts, and municipalities support their local schools by sponsoring this colorful and engaging student workbook and home leaflet, which is available in both English and Spanish.  For the best economies of scale in this cost recovery program, the TWDB consolidates all orders for Major Rivers each spring.  Deadlines for placing orders are March 1 of each year for receipt of materials for the following school year.

In 2006, the TWDB created the Raising Your Water IQ curriculum, aimed at middle school students.  It is an inquiry-based, hands-on approach to learning about water resources.  Lessons cover topics including watersheds and pollution, understanding porosity and permeability, groundwater, water stewardship, and water conservation.  The teacher’s guide and other supporting resources such as maps and interactive games and visualizations are offered as free downloads on the web.  In addition to the web resources, a CD-Rom for teachers was created in 2008, and the TWDB has distributed over 800 directly to educators across the state.

The TWDB released a new web-based high school curriculum, Water Exploration, in 2010.  The Water Exploration website uses a project-based learning approach permitting students to conduct research and build an understanding about water science and critical water-related issues.  All learning activities and resources are packaged into three modules, or Legacy Cycles, in a way that enhances student learning by making use of the internet and computer technology to promote inquiry learning.  The curriculum is applicable to high school science courses such as Earth and Space Science, Advanced Placement Environmental Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Aquatic Science.  In addition to the website, a CD-Rom for teachers was created in 2011, and over 200 have been distributed directly to teachers to date.

In addition to school-based programs, the TWDB also provides other educational opportunities.  The agency offers brochures and educational materials for indoor and outdoor water conservation at home and for agricultural water conservation.  These publications are free in limited quantities and for a nominal price per additional copy and support water supply entities’ efforts in meeting the water conservation best management practice in public information.

Through Water IQ: Know your water, the TWDB provides information on water-saving practices, raises awareness about the importance of water efficiency, and helps Texans use less water.  This statewide program is designed to complement and support existing local and regional water conservation efforts.

Through the agricultural conservation education programs, the TWDB provides educational materials at farm and ranch shows, agricultural trade shows and conferences, and other events.  The TWDB offers Agricultural Water Conservation Grants to local entities for education programs and to demonstrate and evaluate cost-effective technologies that will increase water conservation.  The agency also distributes brochures on Agricultural Best Management Practices and Irrigation Water Use Management to build understanding about agricultural water conservation.

The TWDB offers educator workshops, water loss/leak detection training, conservation workshops, rainwater harvesting, and Groundwater 101 to assist the public, educators, and water supply entities.

For more information about the educational resources offered by the TWDB, please email consedu@twdb.texas.gov.

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