The Clean Campus program

The Clean Campus program could be coming to a school near you! Here is the program in action at Cloverdale High in May 2014

Clean Campus program to sweep across California High Schools

Russian Riverkeeper’s Clean Campus Clean Creeks program has been chosen by the State Water Board as a model for a $25 million dollar grant program to be replicated across California, mostly in the southern region of the state. It’s called the Drought Response Outreach Program (DROPS) and its main goal is to educate students and the community about stormwater. DROPS will provide funding for campus projects that clean up polluted stormwater, increase groundwater recharge and provide wildlife habitat in rain gardens and bioswales using native plants.

“What we’re doing here in the Russian River applies everywhere; we’re going to clean up water across the state,” said Don McEnhill, the executive director of Russian Riverkeeper. “This program will educate the people who will be running things in the future.”

Russian Riverkeeper will pursue a chunk of the $25 million dollar State Water Board grant funding to expand the Clean Campus programs out to eight high schools in Sonoma County, working with teachers and school officials to incorporate the Clean Campus stormwater curriculum and get students involved in project design and implementation.  The eight-targeted high schools are Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Marce Becerra Academy, El Molino, Analy, Petaluma, Sonoma Valley and Casa Grande. The winners of the grant award will be announced in March or April, and the grant will be received in June. The programs will be implemented in fall 2015 through spring 2017, “to phase the projects on each campus and bring in more students each semester to reach as many as possible,” McEnhill said.

“We’re going to help the river…give students experience and help the campuses look better,” said McEnhill.

Clean Campus Clean Creeks was started at Healdsburg High School six years ago.

“The goal was to teach kids about the biggest threat to water quality…and the sustainable solutions,” McEnhill said.  “Our longtime goal was to make it a statewide program.”

The Clean Campus program starts with lecture based presentations and an educational video that explains the problem of polluted stormwater runoff, identifies major pollutants sources and presents strategies to address the issue. The students take this knowledge and survey their own campus for pollution sources, and identify sustainable solutions. The groups present their findings and the best ideas are turned into school projects.

The rain gardens and bioswales the students build while in the program slow down water, so it doesn’t rush into local creeks and increase flood peaks. As the water is slowed down, it makes contact with the soil and plants that remove pollutants from stormwater and decrease flooding. This also increases groundwater recharge that is the drought water bank. The students in the Clean Campus program play an integral role in protecting their communities from more extreme floods and droughts due to a changing climate.

While students are learning about protecting their waterways, they are also acquiring marketable job skills in sustainable landscaping techniques and basic tool use.

Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Marce Beccera Academy, Elsie Allen and Montgomery are all high schools that have participated in the Clean Campus program in the past.

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