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Volunteer

Actions speak louder than words. We need not only your financial contributions, but your time, as well. The Hoosier Environmental Council has many opportunities for people who are passionate about improving and protecting our state’s environment.

Here are 3 ways to get involved with HEC:

1) Join us on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s a great way to be in the loop on upcoming events, important Indiana environmental news and opportunities to make an impact.

2) Get trained to become an HEC Environmental Advocate.
Want to campaign for transit, sustainable farming, clean water or green energy?  Talk to your legislators, follow the session, and help us spread the word!  Write HEC’s Senior Program Associate, Amanda Shepherd, at ashepherd@hecweb.org with “Environmental Advocate” in the subject line.

3) Become a Water Warrior.
Believe it or not, more than 50% of our rivers and streams are unfit for swimming or fishing. Help us change this situation – become a Water Warrior!  Contact Amelia Vohs at avohs@hecweb.org with “Water Warrior” in the subject line for more information.

For volunteer inquiries, contact Amanda Shepherd: ashepherd@hecweb.org

Here’s a profile of one of our wonderful HEC volunteers:

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A HEC WATER WARRIOR?
By Falon French

Matt’s lovely house and yard

When talking with potential volunteers, the first question I always get is; “What does it take to be a Water Warrior? What will I have to do?” Being a Water Warrior is easy for most people. What it takes is a real love for the water, and what you have to do is spend some time out on the water. You test the chemicals in the water with easy-to-use test strips, and you count the macroinvertebrates in the water – in other words, the bugs.

Matt Newell is a true Water Warrior. Four years ago, he moved to Indiana from Southern California. Even though he moved to be closer to family, as a former surfer he wanted to live near water so that his kids could have the chance to be “watermen” – to learn to appreciate and love the water. He and his family, therefore, moved to a home on Geist Reservoir.

That first spring, he took his paddle board out on the water. Immediately he noticed the poor clarity of the water; the water was cloudy, and visibility was low. Over the next few months, as he continued to go out on the water, he noticed a foul smell coming from the surface of the water, one he describes as “the smell you find in the fertilizer aisle in Home Depot every spring.” The water started to change from simply cloudy to greenish in color.

While working in the garden that summer, Matt got poison ivy. While he still had some open wounds and sores, he went out paddling again. A few days later, he got sick with flu-like symptoms. He never went to the doctor, so he didn’t know what caused the infection. But at a town hall meeting with the Geist Watershed Alliance that fall, he learned for the first time about the algal blooms and toxins in his water. And that lingering illness and the information he gathered about the algae and toxins made him wonder what kind of harm this water quality issue might be doing to him and to his family.

As he started to do more research on the algae and nutrient issues in Geist Reservoir, Matt came across the Hoosier Environmental Council and joined. Two years later, he signed up to attend an HEC-sponsored workshop to teach the average person how to monitor water quality – and became one of the first HEC Water Warriors. While he expected the chemical testing portion of the workshop, he was surprised to find that testing water was a lot more in-depth – and fun – than just using test strips. The macroinvertebrate collection and identification gives more than just a one-time assessment of water quality; it helps Water Warriors monitor trends in the waterway, and find what are known as “indicator” species – those species of invertebrates that can only thrive in good water sources.

Matt does all he can to protect water quality. In my recent interview with Matt, he told me, “Lawn care companies should become LAND care companies. Some of these companies may not be trained on phosphorus-free lawn fertilizer applications. Few, if any, are trained in the installation and maintenance of EPA-endorsed best management practices (BMPS) for watersheds: rain gardens, grassed swales, and vegetated buffer strips along the edges of our rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, and retention ponds. And while the (Geist) Watershed Alliance has done a great job of showing the problems, it can be difficult to advise folks on how to implement the fixes. There is no watershed management aisle at the local garden centers. That’s why the workshops and demonstration properties are so critical.”

Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District awarded Matt a grant to turn his backyard into a demonstration property for backyard conservation. This program allows him to show his neighbors how to protect waterways from stormwater run-off, and to see that protecting the water can also mean having an attractive landscape. As part of the Backyard Conservation Initiative, he took a master gardener course, installed two rain gardens, removed some invasive Japanese honeysuckles, planted food gardens, native trees, and a prairie of native grasses and flowers. He has also created a website (www.urbanrenewell.com) of educational materials for the property, explaining how these land management practices can protect water quality.

In addition to protecting water quality in his backyard and good land use practices, Matt continues to test water regularly. He has adopted a drainage ditch from a nearby subdivision for the Hoosier Riverwatch program, and also tests the water in a marina of Geist Reservoir as well as a retention pond in his subdivision. His two children go out testing with him – and his son loves looking for the bugs. By taking them out with him, he hopes to instill not only a love of the water, but a desire to protect that water for future generations of Newells.

This is what it takes to volunteer and improve water quality in your community. To be a Water Warrior, you have to care about the water and be willing to test it just four times a year. Matt is living proof that most Water Warriors go above and beyond the minimum. Most Water Warriors want to be on the water as much as they can. They want to get their kids involved in water monitoring, and they want to do everything they can to stop water pollution problems before they happen.