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Water-Resource Regional Specialized Extension Agents Learn About Suwannee Water Issues ,

UF/IFAS Extension recently hired five new Water-Resource Regional Specialized Agents (RSAs) to help ensure sustainability of Florida’s critical water resources. Their job is to lead water-resource Extension education programs across Florida for urban and rural audiences.

The UF Water Institute volunteered to organize fieldtrips across the state for the Water-Resource RSAs during their first year, to provide an opportunity for them to learn about the breadth of water related issues, and to meet key water stakeholders.

In October, the RSAs participated in their first fieldtrip - dubbed “corn to clams” - in the Suwannee River watershed. The agents learned about new water-efficient irrigation tools during tours of several farms; about vulnerability of the Floridan aquifer and importance of ample clean water to springs and rivers during a visit to Fanning Spring; and about the hugely successful clam aquaculture industry that operates in the coastal waters adjacent to Cedar Key, and depends, of course, on clean and abundant freshwater from the Suwannee River.

“The Suwannee River watershed is a major agricultural area, with 20% of Florida farms and 17% of farm sales in Florida,” says Charles Barrett, Water RSA for the area. “I want to help the public know more about the work being done to increase adoption of agricultural Best Management Practices to protect water resources.”

With diverse backgrounds that complement one another, these 5 new RSAs are facilitating productive partnerships among various water stakeholders, including the general public, agricultural producers, and Water Management Districts.