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About UNEP
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United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
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Newsletter and Technical Publications
<International Source Book On Environmentally Sound Technologies
for Wastewater and Stormwater Management>

4.8 Public education (Topic h)

In North America, public education regarding wastewater and stormwater treatment is handled locally. Although federal and state agencies produce educational materials, there are no set curricula in schools, or information which is required to be carried by print, radio or television media. However, the general public is fairly well informed on broad environmental and health issues due to initiatives by local governments, educators, and environmental action groups.

US government public education efforts include print materials produced by the US EPA, as well as the US EPA internet websites where materials can be ordered, and sometimes viewed. The Small Flows Clearinghouse addresses issues specifically related to on-site and small wastewater treatment systems. As well, there are compliance centres for metal finishing, printing, agriculture, and automobile manufacturing, and is considering doing one for municipalities. Rather than physical locations, these centres are a combination of telephone hotlines, Internet sites and e-mail services operated by industry groups, states and educational organizations. They were initially financed through grants and contributions, and hope to become self-sustainable by collecting user fees or selling advertising.

A wastewater training center in El Paso, Texas run by the University of Arkansas National Water Management Center will teach US and Mexican citizens about on-site wastewater treatment and reuse of graywater as part of an effort to help farmers and rangers to manage water successfully.

There are many environmental action groups which educate the public using advertising and use of the local media to highlight areas of concern. Three of the larger and best known groups are Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the Sierra Legal Defense Fund.

Many of the above, as well as city centers, have developed web pages which can be accessed for information on local infrastructure. Government agencies have also published copies of legislation on the internet, available for public research. And, of course, manufacturers of wastewater treatment equipment and products advertise through web pages on the internet.

At the local level, initiatives include visits by professional engineers to schools, often organized by the local professional organization. Local regional districts often produce educational materials for use by schools, which describe the local water and wastewater treatment systems. School programs are organized by individual teachers and vary widely in the depth of information covered. In some districts on the west coast, classrooms have organized salmon enhancement programs for local small streams. Neighbourhood programs organize volunteers to paint fish beside catchbasins to remind the public that liquids discharged to the catchbasin will eventually affect the water environment.

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