Why I Support Project WET: Marjie Risk - Water Educator, Artist, and Advocate
This article is part of a series highlighting Project WET's educators and the donors who help them access our science-based, hands-on resources. With Project WET's curriculum, they can confidently teach about water and our changing climate, preparing our youth for a resilient future. You can help lead the way to climate resilience by donating to our 2021 year-end campaign. From now until the end of 2021, the first $18,000 in individual donations of $50 or more will automatically be doubled through a generous gift from the Water Leaders Matching Fund. Click here to support Project WET.
My name is Marjie Risk. I am a trained facilitator and longtime supporter of the Project WET program. While my career in the water industry spans over 30 years, my association with Project WET started around the year 2000, a little over two decades ago. I spent most of my career working at a state level for Arizona’s groundwater regulatory agency, the Arizona Department of Water Resources. We administered surface water programs as well but without the same legislative oversight. As a statewide agency, we received requests for educational materials on all water-related topics including water resources, conservation, etc. With our agency budget tied to legislative appropriations, we typically stocked a minimum amount of prepackaged, generic materials which covered the basics of water uses and sources. It wasn’t too long before the educational requests then came across my desk. While the materials we had were also used by many local municipalities and other water agencies, I found them woefully inadequate to go beyond a basic water resource education.
My frustration about the lack of materials grew over the next year and I began looking for a program or source of materials that would better meet the needs of our agency. The city of Phoenix shared a study done by a consulting firm that evaluated the top 50 water education programs across the country and Project WET was ranked #1. The #1 ranking got my attention and so did Project WET. I definitely needed to know more about the program. A short time later, I was contacted by Kerry Schwartz who was the Arizona Project WET Coordinator. She was holding a meeting in the Phoenix area to discuss agency participation in a Make a Splash with Project WET 4th grade water festival. That meeting and several subsequent meetings began an association with Project WET that continues to this day. Project WET became our educational lynchpin, creating partnerships between federal, state and local agencies that didn’t always work well together due to the politics of water . . . Project WET changed that!
Over the years, my role in the agency grew from managing a grant program to managing the agency’s statewide Water Conservation Office created by then-Governor Janet Napolitano. With the Governor’s approval, we worked with Project WET at a state and national level to create the Waters of Arizona Kids in Discovery series booklet that was distributed to over 90,000 4th graders.
I now work as a part-time water resources consultant and full-time artist. My artwork is largely inspired by water and our natural environment. My dedication and commitment to Project WET remain through periodic artwork donations and tax-deductible monetary contributions. As we learned to live our lives “remotely” in 2020, I pitched an idea to Project WET about creating an online water-related fine art auction. It seemed to be a logical continuation of a long-term partnership during changing times. Artists could sell their work with a portion of proceeds going to the Project WET program as a tax-deductible donation. This idea became a reality in the spring of 2021 and it will become an annual fundraiser. I look forward to many more years of involvement and association with this top-ranked water education program. It seems like only yesterday, but years later, Project WET continues to produce high-quality materials with aesthetically pleasing and engaging illustrations while adapting to changes in delivery methods and ever-changing learning environments.
Why do I continue to support Project WET? The better question is why not? Project WET removes the seemingly ever-present politics of water and uses science to explore and explain even the most complicated issues. Project WET recognizes that water is for all users and its existence provides a life-giving connection between the environment, people, and animals. My longstanding experience with Project WET makes a donation an easy decision and as they are an annual recipient of the GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency among nonprofits, I know that I’ve made a sound investment. Please join me in supporting Project WET to make water education accessible to students everywhere.