Last spring the Santa Clara Valley Water District launched a mini-grant pilot program to empower community partners and organizations to help us keep our watersheds healthy.  The mini-grant pilot program is made possible by the voter-approved Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program.

The water district board of directors first approved the pilot program in 2016, making $200,000 available for grants of no more than $5,000 per awardee. These grants are for projects related to wildlife habitat restoration (including fish passage) and community outreach and education related to watershed stewardship. The pilot program was designed to provide seed funding to encourage wider community engagement in taking an active role in keeping our creeks healthy.

Ten months after the program launched, we’ve awarded over a dozen grants to a diverse group of organizations including a middle school, a university and a senior resource group. Several funded projects will enhance creek ecosystems by planting native trees and shrubs that help preserve habitat for animals. The Stanford Conservation Program, designed to restore and manage ecosystems on Stanford lands, has various projects to plant and maintain native and riparian plants to improve habitat for the California tiger salamander and red-legged frog.

Some of the projects have an educational focus, engaging seniors in learning about the importance of restoring open space, habitat and supporting healthy watersheds. Bay Area Older Adults, a Sunnyvale non-profit, will lead seniors on walks along Uvas Creek and the San Antonio Open Space preserve to educate and engage participants about flood protection, wildlife preservation and creek ecosystems. Senior volunteers will also help remove invasive plants in areas of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge to improve marshland habitat.

Several of these projects include some hands-on education for students ranging from kindergarten to college in restoring opens spaces and creeks, cultivating a native plant garden, learning about sustainable soil and presenting to the public about the importance of healthy watersheds.

Increasing community awareness and education of watershed stewardship is just as important as the physical improvements. One of the core objectives of the pilot mini-grant program is to engage community members through small scale projects that educate, enhance and protect our environment and waterways. By making grants more accessible to schools, organizations and others, we can all play a role in caring for our streams and environment.

To learn more about the mini-grants program, including eligibility and requirements, visit our website.

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