The fifth annual Iowa Water Monitoring Conference is going on in Ames. Artist David Williamson from Ogden will be there with a piece of art that got wide attention, after he created it from trash pulled out of the Des Moines River. Williamson took the giant canoe-paddle to last summer’s Iowa State Fair and he’s brought it to the water conference at Iowa State University’s Scheman conference center. Rather then just looking it over, he says participants have asked him to share the “process of creativity” that went into making it. Williamson says about 100 volunteers with Project AWARE helped clean up the Des Moines River and salvage the materials in the sculpture. The program’s a volunteer effort and he explains AWARE stands for “A Watershed Awareness River Expedition,” an acronym designed originally by Brian Soenen with Iowater, which is the state water-monitoring volunteer program. Williamson believes the artistic and creative elements of Project AWARE are a significant part of the effort. Williamson says in a time of tight state and federal budgets, a program that’s designed to run on volunteers has to be created so it’ll offer those volunteers a great deal of meaning. Williamson says he’s looking forward to the third year of Project AWARE this summer in a new location. Next year they’re planning to go to the Little Sioux River and the segment that runs from Millford to Cherokee, and that way they will have gone from eastern Iowa to central Iowa to now northwest Iowa. The first year of Project AWARE in 2002, volunteers worked on the Maquoketa River. More information is available at the “Io-water” website, www.iowater.net .
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