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Project AWARE is the Iowa Department of Natural Resources volunteer weeklong river cleanup event. Each year, hundreds of volunteers spend their vacations working as aquatic garbage collectors - cleaning up, learning about, and exploring Iowa's rivers. Project AWARE's objectives are to (1) increase awareness about, and community involvement in, water quality issues that impact the health of Iowa's aquatic resources; (2) engage Iowa's citizen volunteers in a project that challenges them to become stewards of the river and produces a tangible, quantiative result; (3) demonstrate the commitment of Iowa's citizens by giving of themselves and their valuable time to make a difference - one stretch of river, one piece of trash at a time.
As an annual weeklong river cleanup, Project AWARE moves to a different Iowa watershed each year and is designed to connect Iowans with their rivers, providing them with opportunities to experience Iowa’s diverse landscapes while at the same time strengthening their sense of place within the natural world. The main goal of Project AWARE is to not only provide Iowans with an opportunity to experience their state's rivers from the seat of a canoe, but to also bring them together in a civic engagement project. In addition to the river cleanup activities, Project AWARE volunteers have opportunities to participate in formal and non-formal educational opportunities, collect and analyze water quality monitoring data along the way, and develop healthy behaviors that benefit the environment. To date, more than 2,500 AWARE volunteers from across the state have cleaned up over 780 river miles, removing more than 250 tons of trash (70% of which has been recycled) from rivers all across Iowa.
- Lynette Seigley
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