Pennsylvania has 86,000 miles of rivers and streams, which flow through farms and backyards, cities and towns, forests and fields. This means that no matter where Pennsylvanians live, virtually all citizens have a role to play in protecting the state's critical water resources.
Visitors to the College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building and Theater at Penn State's Ag Progress Days, Aug. 15-17, can learn how they can contribute to keeping water clean, safe and abundant. Through educational displays and presentations, Penn State Extension educators and faculty specialists will cover a variety of water-related topics of interest to a broad spectrum of audiences.
Water quality is a prominent issue in Pennsylvania, especially for agriculture, according to Matt Royer, director of Penn State's Agriculture and Environment Center. "Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have done much to improve water quality by implementing conservation practices on their farms, much of it with their own dollars," he said. "But more needs to be done. Penn State is helping to lead a coalition of agriculture and environmental leaders to advance innovative, farmer-led solutions to our water quality challenges."
But it's not just farmers who have a role, Royer noted. "Everyone, whether they farm 200 acres or have a small backyard lot, can take management steps to protect our water quality," he said. "We'll be highlighting those steps in the College Exhibits Building during Ag Progress Days, with experts on hand to talk about what farmers, homeowners, forest landowners, private well owners and city dwellers can do to ensure clean water in Pennsylvania."
The building will feature a flowing stream landscape, with "tributaries" to four program displays aimed at helping visitors identify specific things they can do to help protect Pennsylvania's water resources. Exhibits will cover the following topics:
-- Drinking Water Protection: If you're one of the 3 million Pennsylvanians who gets your water from a private well, what should you do, and not do, around your well head to help ensure that your drinking water stays safe for your family? Well owners can learn about Penn State's Ag Analytical Lab and how to test and treat private wells that provide water for households, livestock and other uses.
-- Stormwater and Green Infrastructure: How can you better manage stormwater at your home to reduce flooding, erosion and other water-quality problems on your property and downstream? Learn about the "Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater" and online mapping tools you can use to make a plan for your home. This exhibit also will feature Penn State's Master Watershed Stewards program, which enlists volunteers to help educate communities across Pennsylvania.
-- Agricultural Water: What are the best practices for farmers to protect local water while raising livestock and field crops? This display will spotlight streambank fencing, proper manure management and other conservation practices. Also, visitors can explore the results of a recent Penn State survey on best practices that Pennsylvania farmers already are implementing to protect local water resources.
-- Forest Buffers: Why are streamside forests so important, and what resources are available to help get them planted? Whether you have a stream running through your farm or your suburban backyard, streamside buffers — also known as riparian buffers — are one of the most important practices to protect Pennsylvania's water. Visitors can learn about the many programs available to help with installing a forest buffer on their property.
Also, organizers encourage youth and families to visit the College Exhibits Building at 1 p.m. each day, when 4-H State Council members will lead kids in the new, award-winning "Rain to Drain — Slow the Flow" 4-H activity. Young people will get hands-on experience learning how water moves on Earth and how we can reduce flooding, maintain groundwater supplies and prevent water pollution.
Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 15; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 16; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 17. Admission and parking are free.
For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website.
By Chuck Gill