Empowering Young Adults to Care for our Watersheds

Basins of Relations trains young people from West Contra Costa County to become stewards of their watersheds, communities, and the creeks that run through them. Natural spaces in urban areas are frequently neglected, fenced off, overgrown, and viewed as a public safety hazard rather than a community resource. This trend is especially pronounced in under-resourced communities of color. The Basins of Relations program seeks to fight this injustice and reconnect members of the Richmond community with their natural surroundings.

Each year, this program employs and trains a group of 8-10 Watershed Restoration apprentices capable of contributing to restoration projects and leading watershed awareness programs in West Contra Costa County. Over the course of the 15-week intensive program, the apprentices develop a set of skills and expertise that will help them support their local watershed, their community, and their own careers.

We are grounded in the belief that watershed health and community health are intimately connected: we cannot have one without the other. Our training seeks to restore relationships between community members and the land, with the understanding that cultivating this relationship is essential for any true restoration and healing.

This is a paid training program, lasting for 15 weeks, from September through December.

Training Program Topics

Riparian ecologyNative flora and faunaHonoring indigenous land stewardshipNative plant propagation
HydrologyStormwater ManagementCreek restorationGreywater system installation
Community engagementSocial and environmental justiceClimate change and renewable energyCareer development and leadership skills

These topics are driven home through classroom exercises, field work on creek restoration projects throughout the Wildcat and San Pablo Creek Watersheds, work in our native plant nursery, field trips, and guest lectures from local professionals, elders, and activists.


The goal of the program is to invest in young adults from Richmond and San Pablo and to give the apprentices a toolkit of skills and expertise that will help them understand, relate to, support and protect the watersheds in which they live. Apprentices learn to evaluate ecosystem health at a variety of scales (e.g. watershed, creek, stream segment) and relate what they see to human activity, ecological concepts, justice, and community health. The apprentices become leaders in their community, serving as role models for others and showing their community that caring for both our creeks and our communities can lead to a positive, sustainable, and just path forward; both for individuals and for the collective. This program connects apprentices with professional practitioners who introduce them to potential career opportunities within their respective fields. New in 2023 is the addition of a curriculum surrounding water conservation technologies, like laundry-to-landscape greywater systems and water catchment scales, with opportunities for apprentices to develop both theoretical understanding and hands-on skills.

Accomplishments:

  • Cohorts graduated from Training Program: 6
  • Total number of apprentices graduated: 40
  • Training program graduates who moved on to careers in environmental stewardship: 14
  • Apprentice graduation rate: 93%
  • Average improvement in conceptual understanding, post v. pre-tests: 50.6%

For more information or to get involved, contact Nathan Bickart, Watershed Restoration Program Director: nathan@urbantilth.org