A local nonprofit is accepting applications for a program in which volunteers are trained on protecting local waterways.
The St. Paul-based Freshwater Society is accepting applications for its Master Water Stewards program through Sept. 30. Participants learn about water-related topics, lead a community-outreach event and complete a capstone project.
The goal of the program is to create local expertise and get landowners to install community projects on their properties, program coordinator Deidre Coleman said.
“This program is dedicated to helping that stormwater runoff from private properties,” Coleman said. “We’re trying to infiltrate that stormwater runoff into the ground, before it can run off into our storm sewers.”
Stormwater runoff is responsible for carrying a majority of pollutants into surface waters, Coleman said. That can lead to excessive nutrients in lakes and other water bodies and cause overly dense plant growth, creating poor environments for wildlife and recreation.
Over 70 percent of land in Minnesota is privately owned, according to Coleman, hence the society’s emphasis on spurring private action.
Master water stewards learn about topics such as hydrology, water policy and stormwater planning during the in-person classes. They are required to complete water-management project, 50 hours of community service in their initial year after certification and at least 25 hours each subsequent year.
The Freshwater Society developed the program in 2013 and has certified more than 140 master water stewards in the past four years. Those volunteers have completed or planned 81 projects and have removed more than 540 pounds of sediments each year from Minnesota’s natural waters.
The Freshwater Society partners with about 16 local government units on the program, including the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.
Visit masterwaterstewards.org to learn more or apply.