FIRST STEPS: A watershed usually starts small, with just a handful of interested residents. Active groups can get going with just one motivated individual, but they need to quickly get a core group of 4 to 6 others involved to spread the word. Once a core group has learned about the water quality issue it is time to involve others from across the watershed. This core of active members that initiate watershed councils are the people that really create success in their watersheds. We have found that the first step to gaining widespread participation in a watershed is to involve residents very early on in the process. A great resource, the Watershed Group Development Guide, can be found on the Iowa State University Sociology Extension page. The guide has a number of learning modules organized into six major topic areas for easy access.
FORMALIZING THE GROUP: Each of the watershed councils, or watershed improvement associations, used as examples on this site have organized as a domestic nonprofit corporation (504) through the state of Iowa http://sos.iowa.gov/nonprofits/faqs.html. These groups formed formal organizations to apply for funding through the Iowa Watershed Improvement Review Board http://www.iowaagriculture.gov/IWIRB.asp and other future funding sources. Registering as a nonprofit corporation is a simple, inexpensive process that involves filing an Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws along with a $20 fee. Every two years a Biennial Report must be filed to update the status of the corporation.
The watershed improvement associations must also file for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the Internal Revenue Service. This number is available almost immediately through the IRS Online Application.
WHAT DO COUNCILS DO?: Watershed councils meet regularly, usually 4-6 times per year, during the winter and summer months. Their general policy is not to schedule meetings between April 1 and June 1, and between September 15 and November 15. Those dates are stretched or tightened depending on the growing season and planting and harvest schedules. Everyone in the watershed is welcome at the council meetings, but generally on those individuals participating in the incentive programs attend.