Rutgers Cooperative Extension: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Cooperative Extension helps the diverse population of New Jersey adapt to a rapidly changing society and improve their lives and communities through an educational process that uses science-based knowledge. Through science-based educational programs, Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) truly enhances the quality of life for residents of New Jersey and brings the wealth of knowledge of the state university to local communities. RCE focuses on issues and needs relating to agriculture and the environment; management of natural resources; food safety, quality, and health; family stability; economic security; and youth development. RCE is an integral part of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, the New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station, and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, the State of New Jersey, and County Boards of Chosen Freeholders.
The Water Resources Program: The Water Resources Program is one of many specialty programs under RCE. Dr. Obropta created the RCE Water Resources Program in 2002 and has developed it into an award winning state-wide program dedicated to solving New Jersey's water resources issues. Through competitive grants secured from local, state, and national entities, the program now supports several full-time staff, part-time community outreach specialists, and undergraduate students. The diversity of backgrounds of this staff reflects the variety of needs to be addressed and the holistic approach needed to solve New Jersey's water resources issues. With engineers, scientists, educators, landscape architects, and other design professionals, the team routinely approaches each project and program from a multidisciplinary point of view. The mission of the Water Resources Program is to identify and address water resources issues by engaging and empowering communities to employ practical science-based solutions to help create a more equitable and sustainable New Jersey. This is accomplished through research, project development, assessment and extension, and through the collaborative efforts of our many regional, national, and international partners.
For the last 18 years, the RCE Water Resources Program has been working with communities throughout New Jersey to identify water resources problems and then develop solutions to fix these problems. This has always been a process that engaged local residents and partners across the state. During this journey over the last 18 years, we experimented with a lot of different programs and solutions, but for the most part, the communities always relied on the RCE Water Resources Program to do the heavy lifting when it came to implementing the answers. As we move forward in the years to come, we will continue to engage local residents, but we will shift our attention from engagement to empowerment of local residents and community groups. As the old proverb goes “GIVE A MAN a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for his lifetime.” We are now in the business of teaching people to fish. While some communities have been empowered by our efforts, others still have an over-dependance on us to get them across the finish line. As they become more educated on the issues and the solutions, they gain more confidence, which will continue to build so they can take the mantle and push forward. We will focus on creating leaders and empowering them to strive for a more sustainable New Jersey.