Now available! Connecting the Drops Training

designed to help you protect water resources in your community


We’ve seen the headlines: contaminated drinking water, competition for water supply (bottled-water companies vs communities), oil spills, pipelines, fracking, flooding.

How is your water threatened — and what can you do about it?

The Connecting the Drops training is based on the book “Connecting the Drops: A Citizens’ Guide to Protecting Water Resources” (Cornell Univ. Press, 2015). Presented in non-technical format by author and water resources specialist Karen Schneller-McDonald, this training will help you find the answers to questions like these:

  • How do I know if my drinking water is safe? 
  • How does land use affect streams and wetlands- and drinking water? 
  • Are pipelines that transport oil or natural gas safe? 
  • How do groundwater and surface water affect each other?
  • What can I do to protect water? 

This training is about connections: water is brought to us via natural systems (rivers lakes, wetlands); human activities affect water (pollution, flooding, groundwater depletion). By connecting cause and effect, we can develop strategies to clean up contaminated water and keep it clean, reduce flooding, and maintain water supply for people as well as ecosystems. Through presentations and discussions, Connecting the Drops will help you

  • understand water issues,
  • interpret media accounts and scientific reports,
  • evaluate impacts on water, and
  • develop strategies to protect the benefits that natural water resources provide to you and to your community.

The full training consists of four sections, plus an introduction and conclusion. Each section is approximately 30-40 minutes; however, this can be adjusted to fit your needs in terms of time required and level of detail.

You can sign up for the full series, 4 sections plus introduction and conclusion (2.5-3 hours), or the summary overview (1-1.5 hours). Training sessions are priced according to program design. For additional information contact Karen Schneller-McDonald,



Connecting the Drops Training: Outline


Introduction:  Brief overview of the water issues we face in our communities as the setting for the following sections. Connecting the drops: recognizing the connections between water problems like flooding and contamination, their causes, and action required to address them.

1. Natural Water Systems

Watersheds, ecosystems, and nutrient cycles benefit our health and our communities. While most land use decisions are made according to parcel and municipal boundaries, water is a shared resource across these boundaries, above and below ground. Many of the flood protection, water quality improvement, and water replenishment services provided by watersheds and ecosystems are very low (or no) cost.

2. Land Use

What we do on land affects our water. How to make the connections between land use activities and their effects on natural water systems/benefits. Examples illustrate how to identify specific impacts associated with residential and energy development (including oil transport, natural gas fracking and infrastructure). Tables that summarize the cause-and-effect connections between specific activities’ impacts and water resources can be applied to all types of development: residential/ commercial, agricultural, and energy/ industrial.

3. Measuring and evaluating water impacts

How to understand adverse impacts on water as a basis for protection. Includes illustrations and examples: water contamination, flooding, groundwater depletion, and changes in biodiversity (i.e. habitat damage and species loss). Environmental reviews can affect our water depending on how they’re interpreted and used. Environmental assessment includes words and phrases that are misunderstood, poorly defined, misused, and otherwise require additional scrutiny in terms of protecting a community’s water. Considers:

  • significant impacts
  • cumulative impacts
  • mitigation
  • true costs
  • credibility and fact-checking
  • safety

4. Overcoming Obstacles

Good intentions to protect water may be sidetracked by a variety of obstacles. Many of these can be overcome by changing the way we view them, asking the right questions, developing and using strategies for effective action, and turning obstacles into tools for protection. Examples include:

  • environment vs economic development
  • property rights
  • municipal authority
  • environmental and media reports
  • coalitions, strategies, advocacy (emphasizing a ‘pro’ rather than ‘anti’ approach)

Conclusion: Making the connections needed to protect and restore our water resources includes a look to the future. One of the greatest challenges is reaching out to kids, inviting their interest, and including them in environmental protection actions. Considers:

  • the common good (provision of adequate, clean water)
  • sustainable communities
  • grassroots action and advocacy
  • kids: informed, interested, involved

Training sessions are priced according to program design. For additional information contact:

Karen Schneller-McDonald,