Since its debut in 2017, the Texas 4-H Water Ambassadors Program has made a significant impact in growing the next generation of water leaders. In just three years, 74 youth have participated in this program, which provides them the opportunity to gain unique insight and broad perspective of the water industry and careers in water. The excellence of the Texas 4-H Water Ambassadors Program has not gone unnoticed and in May of 2019, it received a TCEQ Texas Environmental Excellence Award.
Leadership Academy Tour
Each spring, up to 30 high school youth are selected and commit a minimum one-year term of service. The program begins with an 8-day Leadership Academy – an ambitious 2,200-mile tour covering central, southwest and the Panhandle region of Texas. With more than 30 tour stops and presentations, the academy exposes ambassadors to a wide range of water issues, provides a broad perspective of water challenges faced by local communities, and offers a unique, behind-the-scenes look into the water planning process. They also learn about water law, policy, and management as well as basic hydrogeology, water treatment and water efficient technologies.
Groundwater conservation districts have played an important role in the Leadership Academy’s statewide tour with water ambassadors visiting several GCDs. For example, in 2019:
- Ambassadors learned about well monitoring at Central Texas GCD.
- Menard County UWCD showed ambassadors the headwaters of the San Saba River.
- Staff at High Plains UWCD shared basics of groundwater policy.
- Ambassadors explored North Plains GCD’s water conservation demonstration farm.
- Lone Star GCD demonstrated the district’s aquifer education trailer.
Service to Community
Following the Leadership Academy, program participants commit to a minimum of 40 hours of water-related education and service in their communities and beyond. They present at schools, 4-H clubs, and civic events; provide educational booths at county fairs and water days; and share their water ambassador experiences at water district board meetings and industry conferences. Many water ambassadors collaborate with local groundwater conservation districts to lend a hand with education and outreach at schools and community events. For example, a high school senior from Canadian is currently interning with Hemphill County GCD where she helps with their website and educational events. Since 2017, water ambassadors have reported more nearly 3,000 hours of service and have reached more than 58,000 youth and adults with water education.
Support from GCDs
GCDs have played an integral role in supporting the 4-H Water Ambassadors Program. In addition to offering training and service opportunities, groundwater districts throughout the state have been a primary source of funding for the program since its inception. Over 40 GCDs have sponsored the program at various levels, adding up to $99,450, roughly half of the program’s total donations! TAGD and several member GCDs serve on the 4-H Water Ambassadors Program Advisory Committee to provide support, feedback, and ideas on strengthening the program. In recognition of the valuable contributions offered by TAGD’s member GCDs to the 4-H Water Ambassadors Program, TAGD was presented the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Partnership Award for 2020.
The 4-H Water Ambassadors Program is funded primarily by private sponsorships and donations made to the Texas 4-H Youth Development Foundation. Without the generous support of groundwater conservation districts and others in the water industry this effort would not be possible. To become a sponsor, contact David Smith, Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://texas4hwaterambassadors.com for more information. GCDs and other water-related entities are encouraged to advertise the program to their stakeholders. Follow the 4-H Water Ambassadors Program on social media or reach out to David Smith for promotional materials for your website, district office, or newsletter.
Applications for the 2020 class of water ambassadors are accepted beginning March 15 and closes May 15. Check out the web site for eligibility and application information, and help spread the word about this amazing opportunity!