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Nevada water resources specialist receives national award

Posted 8/15/2016

watershed demo

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Water Resource Specialist John Cobourn demonstrates how a watershed works at the Children’s Environmental Science Day at Lake Tahoe.

University’s John Cobourn recognized for work with floods, Lake Tahoe’s clarity and other state water issues

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Water Resources Specialist John Cobourn has received a national award for his innovative approaches in programs addressing flash floods, environmentally friendly landscaping, Lake Tahoe’s water quality, and other water issues in northern Nevada.

Cobourn, a specialist with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, received the Joint Council of Extension Professionals Award for Creative Excellence. This award is granted to Cooperative Extension individuals or small teams who address emerging or existing issues in novel ways that get results, and that others want to emulate. Cobourn was chosen out of seven national finalists, who were selected from several regional nominees.

“It’s really gratifying to be recognized for the work I’ve done in watershed management at Lake Tahoe and in other parts of northern Nevada,” Cobourn said.

In the past 25 years, Cobourn has addressed watershed management, efficient water use, safe drinking water, protection of Lake Tahoe’s water quality, public water policy, flash flooding, floodplain management, environmental literacy, environmentally friendly home landscaping, the need for trained landscapers and training Hispanic workers.

Examples of his work include 15 years of protecting Lake Tahoe’s water quality through various means. He created educational and training programs for homeowners and contractors, and published books, including the co-authored Home Landscaping Guide for Lake Tahoe and Vicinity, which has helped over 20,000 property owners learn about lake-friendly landscape practices.

Cobourn also founded the Lake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition, held conferences, sponsored special events; and, in partnership with Extension Faculty Member, Heather Segale, co-authored a 154-episode weekly “Lake Tahoe Report,” which aired on KOLO TV in northern Nevada.

In addition to efforts to preserve Lake Tahoe, Cobourn has dedicated years of work to flood issues. He helped organize Nevada’s first Flood Awareness Week and create the NevadaFloods.org website. He also worked with Extension Educator Steve Lewis to write the first Cooperative Extension publications on protecting Nevada communities from flash floods. Together, they founded northern Nevada’s first citizens’ group on flooding. The group went on to influence Douglas County to add a flood control element to the 1996 County Master Plan. Cobourn and Lewis also led the team that brought community members together to form the watershed group, the Carson River Coalition.

“The work I’ve been recognized for is an example of the kind of engagement with communities and public agencies that Cooperative Extension does,” he said. “Though sometimes challenging, collaboration with others to reach common educational goals can produce significant results in addressing community needs.”

Currently, Cobourn is working with Cooperative Extension programs in six Southwestern states to strengthen Extension’s ability to provide relevant climate science information at the local level. He also recently created drought planning workshops for Nevada farmers to help them prepare for uncertain weather conditions.

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