Training modules and programs, as well as guidance for development and implementation of environmental education programs, are available on the USEPA Source Water Protection website and other sources.
Education of AFO and CAFO operators is often essential for good cooperation and progress toward protecting source water quality. Many people have a misperception that water treatment plants can remove all of the pollutants from water, and also do not understand the impacts their activities can have on surface water and ground water quality. Educational outreach to the local agricultural community can help overcome these factors, and lead to improved cooperation among all parties. A lot of these science and environmental issues may be new to some farmers, and accepting there is a need for change in their practices can take time. Farm operators will need to be assured and educated, usually through sound science that their practices contribute substantially to the source water quality problems experienced by the utility, and that changes farmers make to their practices will result in concrete protection or improvement of source water quality. Once a producer understands the impact of their activities, and affordable and effective solutions are identified, they are more likely to be willing to make changes to their operations.
Example case studies of existing outreach and educational programs used by water utilities include public education campaign methods such as workshops, publications, informational web sites, posted signs, print and broadcast media, environmental conservation awards, tours, and demonstration projects. Some of these activities are conducted by (and perhaps contracted to) organizations that are already involved in educating the agricultural sector at the local level, including Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Cooperative Extension Offices, and agricultural professional organizations. Since these parties are often already known by the producers, the level of trust already established can improve the results of an educational program. Farmer-to-farmer education can also be highly effective.
In areas with water utilities proactive in source water protection, individual education is sometimes conducted at the farmer's facilities, which allows for direct assessment and discussion about the practices conducted at that farm. Farmer involvement in development of their Whole Farm Plans and Nutrient Management Plans leads to a better understanding and acceptance of what they can and should do. Some water utilities, such as Tulsa (Oklahoma) and Springfield (Missouri), support demonstration farms that are used to showcase various agricultural BMPs, and educate farmers as to more beneficial approaches.
Education of regulatory agency personnel, and of agency or utility personnel who perform inspections of agricultural activities in the source water area, is also beneficial. Information about farming practices, the practical nature and limitations of those practices, and the economics of the business, can help them better understand the farmer's situation and position, and lead to improved communication between the parties. On-site inspections conducted by agency or utility personnel can also be good avenues for mutual education, and education of both the farmers and the inspectors is important for maximizing cooperation between the two parties.