The Izaak Walton League’s Salt Watch program volunteers each choose a stream crossing to monitor for chloride and to check chloride levels at the downstream side of that crossing four times over the course of the winter. The idea is to see what possible impacts road salt has on our surface water and, therefore, our drinking water. 
Traditional methods of water treatment are not capable of removing chloride, meaning once it gets into the water, it can wind up in drinking water. Some municipalities have a keen eye on their salt use, while others are behind the curve.
For instance, recently county supervisor Bob Thome brought his findings at Lake Julia to the Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association to tell them what he and his wife were seeing in their sampling efforts. He said they were finding salt levels had risen over 30% in the last several years and shared photographs with the group of runoff from the parking lots at Crescent school. The amount of impervious surface there had been added piece meal, he said, but the cumulative effects meant salt used in those parking lots was now running off into Lake Julia, where he was finding increased salt levels. Thome had taken action to find a resolution and had gotten multiple agencies involved, including the Department of Natural Resources. This is the ultimate end game for the Salt Watch program, but sometimes, there is uncertainty about the next steps to take.
When first getting into the Salt Watch program, many volunteers may wonder “Now what?” When they find high chloride levels. A recent webinar from The Izaak Walton League addressed just that. It looked at how to talk about salt in water and advocate for more responsible salt use.
Izaak Walton League Clean Water program director Sam Briggs and Midwest Save Our Streams coordinator Heather Wilson shared strategies for education and outreach using social media and other tools. This, they said, was one of the most important parts of volunteer water quality monitoring. For the normal person, Briggs said, the data found by stream monitors may not mean much until it is explained to them.
She started her presentation with science communication basics. The goals, she said were to engage the audience, inform them and provoke a change in opinion or behavior. In order to do this, the content needs to be tailored to those who are receiving it. It must be relevant to them. She said it is a good idea also to not assume a person has prior knowledge about, in this case, salt in water. It is good to start with background information, and then add some basic information to that. This, Briggs said, allows people to bring digestible information back to their group.
She also spoke about things to not do when trying to communicate science findings. Using a confrontational tone, or overusing jargon, are sure turnoffs for most people. She also recommended not overstating the implications of the data. The saying “correlation is causation,” applied here, she said. Simply because two things seem to correspond to one another does not necessarily mean one is causing the other.
Briggs said finding common ground is a good place to start when talking about water quality. While people may have different reasons for wanting good water quality, the need or desire from group to group is much the same. Road salt, for example, can tie back to many different groups of people. There are environmental, economic, and infrastructure impacts. But all of them are related to water quality. 
The Izaak Walton League has several communication resources available for volunteers in the program. First is the advocacy guide. This includes tips for identifying the problem as well as the audience, and building partnerships. It also helps volunteers learn to use their data in their communications with groups. The guide also covers influencing policy makers.
The Clean Water Hub, Briggs said, is the water quality database the League crafted in order to make all of the data from various programs easy to find in one place. The program data from Save Our Streams chemical and biological data, Salt Watch data and, soon, Nitrate Watch data. There will also be a bacteria protocol live on the hub as well. The goal of the hub was to make it easy not only for volunteers to share data, but also for others to use that data in presentations. Users can view and export graphs as well as download data specific to the area where water quality data is available.
The website also contains templates for letters to the editor. They can be edited and submitted to news sources for the Salt Watch program. They will also be available for the Nitrate Watch program, which will launch in early 2023.
Wilson took over the presentation and spoke about social media communication as it relates to water quality. Social media has a wide reach and can be a powerful tool. Over half of the world’s population is represented on social media. 
Social media gives the potential to reach a large audience at little to no cost. In its beginnings, social media was created to build online communities. It allows people who are passionate about something to find others with the same ideals. It can also connect people with organizations, such as the Izaak Walton League. 
The number of social media platforms can be daunting. All serve different purposes and target different demographics. Wilson said volunteers should simply focus on the one or two with which they are familiar and on which they may already be present. The Salt Watch program, she said, uses Facebook and Instagram as the two platforms on which they connect with people.
Instagram is photo- and video-based. Brevity is key here, she said. Posts are usually quite brief, with the photograph or video being the most important part of each post. Instagram and Facebook are both owned by Meta, so it is easy to use both platforms simultaneously.
Facebook is also highly visual, but text only posts are also allowed. Photos, though, are attention grabbers on this platform. Facebook also allows users to create events, such as online trainings on other platforms.
Both of these platforms can be great ways to get the word out about water quality issues such as chloride or nitrates. 
Wilson also spoke about what makes a good social media post. One of those, of course, is a photograph. A good photo element will grab a reader’s attention. Graphics and videos, too, can make a person stop scrolling to check into a subject further. 
Clear and concise posts are important. Attention spans on social media are short, she said. Understanding the audience and the things they care about can go a long way toward getting social media users to read further, but it’s best to share links to longer information pieces than to attempt to include all of the information in a social media post. A short call to action can bring good results and provide high engagement with social media posts.
Wilson also went through social media basics, such as tagging others and other organizations and reposting posts from other likeminded groups. 
Encouraging interaction means posts will be seen by more people. People, she said, love quizzes and trying to answer questions posed on these platforms by groups they follow. Programs such as Canva and PowerPoint are great for making graphics that are eye catching and can convey a great deal of information succinctly.
For more information about the Izaak Walton League, see their website To view the entire presentation about social media outreach, see their YouTube channel. 
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at [email protected]