Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Alabama Watershed Restoration

Although natural events such as fires, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions cause significant changes throughout our environment, we generally think of environmental degradation as any unfavorable alteration of our surroundings caused by the activities of people. As our industrialization and population have increased, so has our capacity to damage the air, land, water and biological resources around us-the very resources we must maintain to sustain ourselves. Our environmental ignorance coupled with poor handling, management and disposal of potential environmental pollutants generated through the exploration, development and use of both natural and human-produced resources has resulted in widespread environmental degradation. Like most states, Alabama has its share of degraded ecosystems due to both intentional and non-intentional release of pollutants, which now reside in our land and water resources.

beckwithbrushfence2.gifEnvironmental restoration may be defined as the process of bringing an altered environmental area-whether it be a river corridor or stream segment, wetland area, industrial site, mined area, or a specific watershed-back to a previous condition or position. The process may involve a wide variety of treatment practices that minimize future pollution damage to air, land, water, and/or aquatic and land-based biological resources. Environmental restoration may also extend to physical removal of pollutants from a degraded site or in-situ reduction of pollutant concentrations through physical, chemical or biological processes. Remediation and reclamation are somewhat synonymous with restoration, but remediation usually deals with fixing a specific problem and reclamation often refers to environmental modifications to suit a particular land use, which may have been limited because of natural conditions such as drought. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, for example, was created for the specific purpose of reclaiming arid lands of the Western United States for agricultural cultivation and settlement.

Environmental Restoration in Your Watershed

Everyone who resides or works on the land surface of the earth does so within the boundary of a watershed. This watershed may be part of a bigger and bigger watershed as you go further downstream. Many land-based human activities have potential to degrade water resources. Degradation on a watershed basis can be determined by monitoring the quality of water draining from the mouth of the watershed and comparing it to similar watersheds that have not been impacted by disturbances or pollutants.

To determine if restoration is needed in your watershed to improve water quality, you need to know how severely the water resources are being impacted by pollution. Much information is available from federal, state and local agencies as well as from other organizations and institutions to help you make this determination. Through a water-monitoring program and watershed assessment, you may draw your own conclusions. Even if pollution is not yet severe enough to impact water use, pollution prevention efforts can still be implemented to prevent future problems.

Resources and Programs

Many resources are available for your use in determining degradation levels, restoration needs, and to help you target potential problem areas for pollution prevention efforts.

Extension Outreach

Auburn University is the home of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), which develops and delivers programs designed to provide science-based outreach educational into all counties of the state. Professionals in ACES have the capacity to interpret environmental restoration research, which has been developed at colleges, universities or from other sources, and use it in education, training and demonstration programs to solve or prevent local problems related to water quality degradation. Target audiences may range from homeowners and agricultural producers to business owners and resource managers to policy makers.

Research and development of better methods for environmental restoration, as well as teaching and demonstrating the use of these technologies in both the classroom and field, are all basic strengths of the land-grant university system. The primary goal of extension/outreach education programs on pollution prevention is to reduce future environmental degradation.

Extension programs that offer information and resources on environmental restoration include:

Scientific Research

A primary mission of scientific research at Alabama's Land Grant Universities is to develop new and better ways of providing the agricultural needs of Alabama's citizens, while protecting our natural resources for long-term sustainability.

Research on environmental restoration is ongoing at Auburn University and may be found in the following locations:

College and University Education

Courses offered at Auburn University related to environmental restoration may be found in the following departments:

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