More than 70 percent of litter in the Tampa Bay Area will end up in the water supply.
This statistic prompted Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful community education liaison, Patricia DePlasco, to take an active role in protecting the Tampa Bay region’s water sources. Through Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, DePlasco is on a mission to make a difference by teaching community members about ways they can help protect their drinking water supply.
“We at Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful believe that early involvement is vital to building a generation of environmentally responsible citizens,” said DePlasco. “Through our environmental education programs, we encourage our youth to become lifelong stewards of our environment.”
In 2011, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful was awarded a $5,000 minigrant from Tampa Bay Water, the region’s drinking water utility, to help fund its environmental education program. The grant allowed Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful to reach out to schools and teach students about environmental stewardship. The environmental education program’s goal is to educate residents and volunteers about the impacts of stormwater runoff on the Hillsborough River Watershed, Alafia River Watershed and Tampa Bay/Anclote River Watershed.
Each year, Tampa Bay Water’s Source Water Protection Minigrant Program offers $20,000 to help fund projects and events sponsored by community groups, nonprofit groups, schools and universities that help promote protection of the region’s drinking water sources.
Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful wanted to inspire area residents to take active roles in protecting the regional water supply. Its project focused on teaching individuals ways to positively impact water basins. Project topics covered litter and its impact on the environment, water and natural resource conservation, and general watershed information.
“Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful’s project has all the elements of a great source water protection program,” said Ivana Blankenship, senior environmental planner at Tampa Bay Water. “This is exactly the type of project we want to fund.”
The minigrant funded the creation of educational materials to use in presentations and outreach activities, and also funded an environmental conference for 300 high school students last March.
The educational materials included custom activity handbooks that were used as an added resource to students attending the environmental education presentations. Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful also created educational posters and bumper stickers that were distributed to residents to assist with source water protection education.
With the financial support from Tampa Bay Water, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful reached more than 30,000 residents and participated in more than 100 presentations/outreach events during the 2012 fiscal year.
Other contributors to Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful Environmental Education Program were Hillsborough County Schools, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County Department of Public Works, the Tampa Bay Estuary and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
“Protecting the regional drinking water supply is not just a task for utilities and regulators," said Blankenship. “The Source Water Protection Minigrant Program was developed to help residents be a part of the process, too.”
Tampa Bay Water’s minigrants are now available for 2013. The last day to apply is Oct. 31 by 5 p.m.
To get a grant application started, visit Tampa Bay Water or call Blankenship at 727-796-2355.