10th Annual Pro H2O Recognizes Seven Award Winners

posted on Friday, June 9, 2023 in Water and Land News

Graphic to promote Pro H2O, June 15, 2023On Thursday, June 15, IEC partners and friends will gather for the 10th Annual Pro H2O celebration, raising awareness about water quality issues affecting our recreational and drinking water and honoring Iowans doing important and inspiring work that improves our waterways and creates a safe, healthy environment and a sustainable future for all Iowans. 

This year, IEC is recognizing seven individuals, organizations, and businesses for their efforts. Read on to learn more about their work from the award winners themselves. Join us on June 15 for our celebration and award presentation. 

Community Impact: Partners of Scott County Watersheds

Partners of Scott County Watersheds 20th Anniversary Logo"Partners of Scott County Watersheds (PSCW) is a nonprofit that works in Scott County, IA to improve the health and stewardship of local watersheds through education, technical guidance, and volunteer opportunities. We serve more than 2,000 people through our education programs, social media campaigns, site visits, citizen science opportunities, and community cleanup events. 

Volunteers Ethan Frye (L) and father Jonathan Frye (R) conduct water quality tests

PSCW is the only organization regularly monitoring water quality and providing water quality education in Scott County and the surrounding areas; PSCW also has one of the longest-running water quality databases in Iowa with over 20 years of water quality information available to the public. 

Partners of Scott County Watersheds is incredibly honored to receive this award and recognition for our efforts."

Young Adult Leadership: Brittany Costello, Miss Scott County

Brittany Costello with watershed poster presentationBrittany Costello earned the title of Miss Scott County in 2022. During her many years competing in pageants, she has chosen to focus her community service initiatives around protecting the planet and ultimately, protecting our most valuable natural resource: water.

"When it came to developing my community service initiative, I knew I wanted it to be something along the lines of protecting the planet. Ever since my 6th grade field trip to the Shedd Aquarium, I knew I was going to become a marine biologist. I started researching ways Iowa impacts our oceans, and discovered a multitude of water quality issues not only in Iowa, but in our nation and in the world. And then BAM! “Watersheds: Think Global, Act Local” was born.

Brittany Costello in classroomThe vast majority of my outreach efforts over the past several months have included giving speeches at events, visiting schools, assisting and volunteering at various educational events, and through social media. I created a curriculum for students to keep them engaged and excited about watershed conservation, which I bring to schools and other community events. Another large part of my work is focused on reducing waste by getting my hands dirty through environmental cleanups.

I dedicate every single day towards furthering my initiative, expanding my knowledge, reaching more people, and finding ways to bring national attention to the water quality crisis. "Watersheds: Think Global, Act Local" isn’t just a requirement for competing in scholarship competitions. It is my life. It is my future. It is our now. We have to do something because the actions we take right now are what defines the future of our world. Adequate water quality is a human right, and it is our duty to protect it for generations to come." Learn more about Brittany and her efforts here.

Youth Education Program: Iowa Children's Water Festival

Iowa Children's Water Festival logoThe Iowa Children's Water Festival is a free educational event that has been providing fifth-grade students the opportunity to learn about the importance of water in their daily lives for 27 years. Through presentations, hands-on activities, exhibits, games, and entertainment, students learn about a multitude of water related topics to include surface and ground waters; the water cycle; wetlands, watersheds; point and non-point pollution sources; wastewater treatment; and many more.

The Festival serves more than 2,000 fifth-graders each year thanks to the help of more than 200 volunteers. 

Says Kristie Wildung with the organization, "What an honor! On behalf of the Iowa Children’s Water Festival we extend our sincere thanks!  We are most grateful and appreciate this very special recognition!"

Business Innovation: West O Beer, owners Matt & Michaela Matthiesen

West O Beer logo"We started home-brewing and after five years started a business plan for a brewery in Okoboji. We opened in 2013. West O Beer is known mostly for our core beers: Coco Stout, Smoked Red, Bahia Mexica Lager and Raspberry Shandy. We are also known for our laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere. 

West O Blue Taps, courtesy of West O Beer

Clean water is what we stand for, it’s our Mission. We chose the lot that we built our brewery on because of it’s water source: West Okoboji Lake. Not only is the water naturally soft and perfect for brewing beer, it’s also the most important resource we have in the Iowa Great Lakes region.

Our water is so important that we donate a portion of our proceeds to help preserve and protect the natural resources of the Iowa Great Lakes region." Learn more about West O Beer's Taproots and Blue Taps programs. 

"(Receiving this award is) a huge honor, and further validation for what we’ve set out to do. We are extremely grateful." 

Impact Through Advocacy: Keenan Crow, One Iowa

Keenan Crow, One Iowa"I’m the Director of Policy and Advocacy at One Iowa which is a statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization. What I’m primarily known for, however, is my work as the staff lobbyist for One Iowa. In this role I work with state and local decision makers to get them information about how LGBTQ Iowans will be impacted by the laws and ordinances they pass. 

Intersectionality means knowing that all these issues are intertwined and that marginalized members of our communities whether they are LGBTQ people, people of color, people with disabilities, etc. will be more negatively impacted than others. (For example) due to higher poverty rates, historically discriminatory housing policies, and the exclusion of LGBTQ spaces in certain communities, LGBTQ people experience higher rates of exposure to environmental pollutants as well as indoor environmental hazards which lead to higher rates of chronic health issues and lower quality of life. Bad environmental policies will impact us all, but they negatively impact LGBTQ people at a higher rate.

Staying motivated is actually quite easy, especially when the stakes are high. I go to work every day knowing that what I’m advocating for is the most beneficial outcome; not just for LGBTQ Iowans but for Iowans in general. State legislatures are actually the most important bodies to focus on when it comes to LGBTQ rights (since there are no federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people). The state legislature can have a huge impact on the rights you are afforded.

Show up. Go to Pride festivals. Attend LGBTQ Day on the Hill and learn how to speak with lawmakers about LGBTQ rights. Donate to an LGBTQ organization. Talk to your friends and family about what fairness means to you and explain why the current policies aren’t fair. Vote for people who want to make Iowa a welcoming place for all rather than punching down on vulnerable children."

Lifetime Achievement: Susan Judkins

Susan JudkinsWith a long career in politics, Susan has worked tirelessly to bring common sense regarding Iowa's water quality to legislators and to the communities in which she serves. First with the Iowa League of Cities, then continuing at Rebuild Iowa in disaster recovery, and most recently as a council person for the City of Clive, Susan has been tenacious in Promoting the planning of and design of responsible stormwater, other infrastructure, and watershed projects in addition to her work with RDG Planning and Design.

Over the last ten years Susan has served on multiple Watershed Management Authorities including Watershed Management Authorities of Iowa, Clive, North Raccoon and Walnut Creek. 

She continues her advocacy working on the State of Iowa Climate Action Plan and helping civil engineers and other professional contacts respond and represent at the Capital to stop the harmful storm water bills currently under consideration in Iowa.

Says Susan, "I hardly know what to say! What an honor to be selected by IEC - I am so humbled and appreciative." 

Lifetime Achievement: Robin Fortney

"My favorite water quote is from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Says the Water Rat to the Mole: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing.” I do love boating on all kinds of water in all kinds and sizes of boats: sailboats; fishing boats; rafts; canoes and kayaks; row boats; (etc.)

Robin Fortney in canoeI began to notice Iowa rivers when I got my first canoe in 1993. When I learned about IOWATER, a volunteer water quality monitoring program originally led by Iowa DNR staff, I signed up for training. I attended an event convened by Nate Hooegveen (who is now leads Iowa DNR’s Rivers Program) called Iowa Rivers Revival. The hope was that a group of people who know and care about the values and concerns around Iowa rivers would become a voice for them. I volunteered to serve on the steering committee. I had paddled and seen enough of Iowa’s rivers to want to be one of those voices.

Everything we can do to bring an awareness of rivers, river values, and concerns about rivers to the public is good for Iowa. I appreciate my past efforts being acknowledged, but I appreciate more the organizations like Iowa Rivers Revival, Iowa Environmental Council, Raccoon River Watershed Association and the many others who keep beating the drum on behalf of Iowa’s natural resources. We must connect new generations of Iowans to rivers to help them understand the importance of healthy rivers and their relationship to water. People do care about rivers and want to be involved in the betterment of them."

Pro H2O is an annual IEC event celebrating water quality efforts and raising funds necessary for this work. You can see past Pro H2O award winners here.

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