The White River Report Card

Just how healthy is the White River Watershed? How does the health of the White River around my community compare to communities downstream or upstream of me? What can be done to improve the health of the river and its surrounding landscape and tributaries? Those are all questions that we hope to answer with the White River Report Card.

Similar to the report cards of our youth, the White River Report Card will be an assessment and communication tool created to help us understand how the White River, and its relationship with the communities along it, are doing. The report card is being developed by bringing together community, business, industry, political, agricultural, conservation, and utility stakeholders to assess the watershed. The report card will be used to communicate community progress, align partners and activities, and inspire change that improves our river and its watershed and protects our economy and way of life.

The White River Report Card is a first for the White River, however, the process is being modeled after and developed with the help of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), which has led over 50 report card initiatives for waterways around the world. The development of the report card follows a proven 5-step process which will take us approximately 18 months to complete.

To gather information about the river, watershed, and communities, a series of stakeholder workshops were held in the spring of 2022. These workshops identify core values and key threats, as well as the types of measurements (we call these indicators) that could be used to assess those values and threats.

Using stakeholder input and other report cards, three broad categories, each with a set of measurable indicators will be used to grade the watershed:

  • Community: Economic activity, access, and activation of the river by people, and resource stewardship impact river conditions
  • Land:  How land is used–for development, industry, agriculture, and natural habitat–impacts the river and how we interact with it.
  • Water: The quality of water, how much is available, and how we use it impacts the river’s health.

To continue to build on and refine these themes we are seeking community input through a quick 5-minute survey to collect your thoughts and opinions about the White River and its surrounding landscape. Your input will help us build a shared understanding of the White River and provide the foundation for the report card.

Over the next several months we will work with topic-focused working groups made up of local experts to finalize the indicators, identify data sources, and define thresholds for the grades. At the end of this data collection and analysis phase, another workshop will occur to present preliminary findings and gather additional input before we calculate grades. Under the guidance of the University of Maryland, grades will be calculated, and the report card will be drafted. This draft will then be presented to stakeholders for final revisions and sign-off. Once the report card is complete we will focus on communicating results to the public and decision-makers and will establish a plan for future updates to the White River Report Card.

To learn more about the White River Report Card, its partners, development, and how to get involved, please visit the White River Report Card website.