The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the UGA River Basin Center (RBC) as the first Center of Excellence for Watershed Management in the nation. This designation was based on the successful development and implementation of the Upper Altamaha Project. The purpose of the Project is to foster community engagement focused on protecting water resources by providing technical, organizational and legal assistance to stakeholder groups to increase their capacity to enhance and protect local water quality.
The Upper Altamaha Project was designed to meet specific needs identified by each community we serve. These include: identifying watershed-based problems, developing and implementing cost effective and locally sustainable solutions to those problems and providing hands-on, practical products and services to increase the capacity of local stakeholders committed to improving or maintaining the natural and economic resources of their watersheds. By partnering with city and county governments, the Upper Altamaha team provides training and technical assistance to government officials and staff, nongovernmental organizations, business interests and other stakeholders on topics of watershed concern.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), Non Point Source program, provided initial funding for the project, with funding from additional sources currently supporting the work. UGA students are involved in most aspects of community engagement associated with Upper Altamaha projects. To date, over 127 UGA students have taken part in the Upper Altamaha Project. The Project team also includes staff and students from Mercer University, Georgia College and State University and Gainesville College. This arrangement provides interdisciplinary service learning experiences for the students and maximizes resources for the community.
Types of technical assistance available from the Upper Altamaha Project team include:
- Ecological assessment of floodplains and riparian buffers
- Economic valuation of water resources
- Land use law and policy as it relates to water quality
- Source identification and development of management strategies for Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) implementation
- Application of cutting-edge research on septic system maintenance and management
- Stream sampling and analysis trips for community partners, UGA and partner school students and local citizens
The Upper Altamaha Project continues to generate a great deal of interest and subsequent action among stakeholders focused on pollution reduction in streams throughout the watershed. The Upper Altamaha team has provided assistance to communities throughout Georgia by completing over 87 individual projects of various types, with over 145 citizens engaged in water resource protection at the local level. In many cases, the Upper Altamaha team partnered with the local community to heighten awareness about water quality issues and initiated projects that resulted in measurable differences in stream health. The team continues to focus on building strong partnerships, as success in the streams depends on the ability of the local stakeholders to have hands on involvement in projects that protect water resources.
Read the press release announcing the launch of the Initiative, 8/22/05.