Skip to content

“Follow the Water Program” Wins Award for Excellence

Follow the Water Program
Pictured: Assistant County Manager Marshall Eyerman; Extension Director Dr. Taylor Clem; Assistant Planning Director Gabriel Quintas; and Director of Strategic Advancement Brandy Carvalho

The UF/IFAS Extension Northeast District which includes Nassau, Baker & Duval Counties, has earned an Award of Excellence in Environmental Stewardship from the Northeast Florida Regional Council (NEFRC) for its “Follow the Water Program.” All three Districts were recognized during the NEFRC’s Annual Awards Luncheon.

The “Follow the Water Program” was created and launched by Extension Agents, including Nassau County’s Extension Director Dr. Taylor Clem, in the Northeast Extension District to educate residents on watersheds and protecting Florida’s water resources. The program includes a 4-day educational tour that “follows a drop of water from southern Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico”. Each step along the tour allows participants to explore nature, develop a deeper understanding of relationships to watersheds, and explore the efforts to enhance and protect Florida’s water resources.

Participants begin their tour in the headwaters of the Suwannee River – the Okefenokee Swamp. The Suwannee River basin is one of the least developed watersheds in Florida and is the largest undammed river in the Southeastern U.S. However, watersheds, including the Suwannee River watershed, and their water resources are threatened by increased urbanization and consumption. Participants learn about the swamp and its vital role in shaping and maintaining watershed health. The second day explores Florida’s unique karst geology and its influence on the Suwannee River. Additionally, participants meet with agricultural researchers and water management district representatives to learn about the strategies to protect the watershed. During the third day, participants step outside the Suwannee River watershed to explore an urban watershed – Sweetwater Branch. Participants explore innovative projects that help restore watershed health, including manufactured wetlands, brownfield site redevelopment, and low-impact design principles, which help mitigate nonpoint source pollutants associated with urbanization. On the final day, participants meet at the Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key, to learn about coastal ecosystems and the impacts upstream water quality has on our vital fisheries in the state.

FTW has been offered six times since 2020 with 58 participants completing the training, including alumni events. The program provides approximately 32 hours of education per person valued at $92,000. Participant surveys showed a sustained increase in connectedness to water, and after one year, 13 of the 14 respondents reported changes in environmental-related behaviors, including one participant who began a career in water resource communication. Collectively, participants reported sharing FTW information with 2,209 individuals. The FTW team will host 2024 training and alumni events, but also plans on providing training programs to other extension agents and communities interested in adopting similar programs.

Dr. Taylor Clem stated, “The Follow the Water Program unveils the role we all play within our watersheds. By improving connectedness Floridians have with water through this program, we know they’ll increase their likelihood of adopting water conservation practices and sharing that information with others. This is important because every decision, every action, no matter where we live, is linked directly to water; the driver of Florida’s social, economic, and environmental well-being”.

Registration for the next program is currently open with program dates of May 16, May 23, May 30, and June 6, 2024. To learn more visit:

Scroll To Top