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Watershed Symposium: Nine years and counting!

By Lynn Berni, Guest Blogger

DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.

The Salt Lake County Watershed Planning and Restoration Program hosted its 9th annual Watershed Symposium on November 18 and 19, 2015. With record attendance and over 90 percent of follow-up survey respondents rating the Symposium “excellent” or “very good”, I think it’s fair to say that this year was a resounding success.

Symposium attendees listen to a panel discussion.

Symposium attendees listen to a panel discussion

The goal of the Watershed Symposium is to encourage a comprehensive review of the current state of our watershed while creating a successful networking event for a broad array of stakeholders. As always, speakers and sessions covered a wide range of watershed issues from general interest to technical. The theme of climate change was incorporated in many of the presentations this year, including keynotes by Dan McCool and Pat Shea, as well as an excellent panel discussion on the management of watersheds in times of climate change.

Survey says…

We take the feedback that we receive each year seriously and are always looking for ways to improve. We tried a couple of new things this year, including shorter sessions and peer-voted “Best Of” awards. The shorter sessions allowed us to offer more talks in two concurrent breakouts. And the more focused “power” sessions really kept the momentum up.

We’ve heard from quite a few Symposium attendees through our follow-up survey, who have offered kudos and valuable constructive criticism. Here are some of my favorite comments:

Attendees enjoying the presentation

Attendees enjoying the presentation

“It gets better every year. There is no other event in Utah that provides such a learning opportunity.”

“The keynotes were engaging and thought-provoking. Embracing a bit of controversy should absolutely be part of the symposium…”

“It was a great mix of political aspects as well as current scientific research on extremely important issues of water quality and quantity.”

“There is so much research, studying and collaborating that I wasn’t aware of.”

“I loved the shorter presentations!”

Survey results are still coming in, and we’ll publish the top-line results on the event website. Presentation PowerPoints and a photo gallery are also available on the site.

Here’s to 2016 and beyond

Once or twice over the years, the question has been asked as to whether hosting the Symposium is a good use of the resources of the Watershed Program. I’ve always been on the side that the Symposium is a valuable component of our outreach efforts, and one that provides an important service to the community, given that environmental education outreach is one of the primary goals of our program, along with stewardship planning and assessment and restoration of waterways in the Jordan River sub-basin.

I feel confident that the community of water stewards and environmental advocates in our region would agree whole-heartedly. As the Symposium continues to grow, the argument in favor is strengthened. Thirty-six percent of attendees this year reported that they had never attended the Watershed Symposium before. How cool is that?

This free, two-day conference is made possible through collaboration with numerous individuals and agencies and the support of the Salt Lake County Mayor and Council. Funding from EPA Region VIII this year was most appreciated. I also want to give a shout out to the Division of Water Quality (DWQ) and the Watershed Protection Section, including Carl Adams, Hilary Arens, and Jim Bowcutt, who continue to be excellent partners. DWQ’s participation in the Symposium every year is greatly regarded and appreciated.

Looking forward to the 10th Anniversary Watershed Symposium!

Want to learn more about the Salt Lake Watershed and what you can do to get involved? Visit our website for information about watershed planning, water quality, the Jordan River Watershed Council, and the Salt Lake Countywide Water Quality Stewardship Plan. Check out our Watershed Watch newsletter for upcoming events and tips on how you can get involved. Hope to see you at next year’s Symposium!

Lynn BerniI’ve been a watershed planner with the Salt Lake County Watershed Planning and Restoration Program since 2009. Prior to moving to Utah, I was a Park Planner with Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I have a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from Cornell University. The art of creating effective communication tools is of particular interest to me. I enjoy hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, skiing, gardening, and home improvement projects.