The St. Joe River: Intersecting with the Community

Will Cary


This project aimed to uncover best practices in urban watershed communication. How can organizations and governments most effectively provide information about local waterways to residents? I discovered issues affecting the St. Joseph River through existing research and conversations with local academics and government officials. Urban impacts on the St. Joe include combined sewer discharge, impaired tributaries, and residential runoff. Community leaders directed me to current river outreach programs in the area. South Bend and other organizations in St. Joseph County provide accurate information about the watershed. However, the municipal website is not organized intuitively. Moreover, South Bend area communication tends to focus on the river, rather than the broader watershed. Strategies in other partially urbanized watersheds, in addition to watershed management research, suggested several communications foundations. Watershed outreach should:

  • Reduce the knowledge gap between administrators and the public by providing community members with comprehensive information about the state of their watershed.
  • Clearly demonstrate progress on watershed issues to inspire community confidence.
  • Target a broad range of community stakeholders through understandable, accessible, and practical information.

In urbanized watersheds, county and watershed-level coalitions—with the benefit of their combined resources—tend to produce the most comprehensive and accessible information. To synthesize my conclusions into an experimental tool, I built a website using Weebly at The website provides a holistic view of the St. Joseph watershed, locating the river in its history and community. It hosts practical information about the watershed and directs users to additional resources, emphasizing how river management is connected to the land and residents