Published on 09/27/17

New UGA Extension water educators will teach Georgians how to conserve water

By Sharon Dowdy

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension recently welcomed eight water educators to the organization. Formerly part of the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission, the positions were transferred to UGA Extension by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

“The governor’s plan was to streamline program services so the Environmental Protection Division handles regulatory issues and the Soil and Water Conservation Commission handles sediment and soil erosion and (watershed) dams,” said Associate Dean for Extension Laura Perry Johnson. “We now have more resources in Extension to address water issues, there will be fewer duplications of efforts, and services will be enhanced at the local level. The more I learn about the experience these gentlemen have, the more excited I am about the skills and talents they bring to us.”

These new Georgia water educators and their bases of operation include:

  • David Hall, Bleckley County Extension office
  • Andy Dyar, J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research and Education Center, Watkinsville
  • John Loughridge, Gordon County Extension office
  • Dustin Rushing, Southeast District Extension office, Statesboro
  • Tony Black and Luke Crosson, Hooks-Hanner Environmental Resource Center, Terrell County

Two additional positions have been advertised for educators who will be based on the UGA Griffin and UGA Tifton campuses. The UGA-Griffin educator will focus on urban water use, and the UGA-Tifton educator will focus on traditional row crop agriculture water use. The UGA-Tifton educator will also support the UGA Water Resource Team, a group of researchers, Extension specialists, social scientists, economists and program development specialists focused on improving water management in Georgia.

On the job in Watkinsville, Georgia, Dyar is making the shift back to working with farmers instead of focusing on dams and flood control. Dyar has worked for the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission since 2006.

“It’s good to be back working with farmers on projects,” said Dyar, who, along with the rest of the educators, brings a wealth of water resource knowledge and leadership skills to UGA Extension. At the commission, he was first a grant administrator, then a technician in the watershed dam program, a resource specialist in the regional office in Athens, Georgia, and, of late, was the regional representative in the commission’s Milledgeville, Georgia, office.

The UGA Extension water educators will continue to support farmers, green industry representatives and homeowners by performing water audits, duties they bring with them from the commission.

“In south Georgia, especially, we provided a mobile irrigation lab and we will continue to do so. We will go to farms that have center pivot irrigation and test to make sure those are performing correctly and uniformly,” Dyar said. “We will also continue to work with those who have a contract with USDA for cost-share funding. As part of the requirement, an irrigation audit must be prepared and, as Extension water educators, we will prepare those.”

There is no fee for irrigation audits.

In north Georgia, the Extension water educators will focus on other educational opportunities, like assisting farmers with the implementation of natural resource conservation best management practices, teaching Georgians how to maintain drip irrigation, and sharing information about homeowner irrigation systems.

The new UGA Extension educators are currently reviewing water education needs across the state and developing programs to deliver.

“I have some upcoming meetings where I will talk with garden clubs about ways to conserve water. We will be working on everything from homeowner conservation to on-farm conservation,” Dyar said. “After all, water affects everyone and everybody has the opportunity to save water. It’s just a matter of delivering education to get the message across.”

For more information on UGA Extension programs, go to

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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