Sprawling development in the area has caused problems with storm-water management and erosion. Both good and bad storm-water practices will be highlighted at the conference, Zerbe said.
About 170 people are expected to attend the two-day event, Zerbe said. Participants have a choice of how-to classes, including instruction on taking legal action to protect streams, writing grants and using dam removal to restore rivers.
The congress aims to connect people with the water-quality professionals who can help them. Too often, Zerbe said, private citizens think their input will not make a difference.
"That's not the case," she said. "We're the eyes and the ears of the watershed."
State agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection do not always know when something is awry in a local waterway. Observant residents and local governments often can spot problems in their own backyards much quicker. "We're the first line of defense for our streams," Zerbe said.
The Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy has just begun a three-year conservation study of the watershed. It will offer a bus tour Sunday of the east branch of the watershed, including stops in Lower Salford, Telford, West Rockhill and Schwenksville, where the conservancy is based, said Alix Curran, conservation coordinator for the conservancy.
The tour is the beginning of a public-outreach program to solicit opinions and educate people about the conservation study, Curran said.
When the study is completed in 2003, it will enable municipalities and conservation groups to increase their funding for restoration projects from the state by using the document in grant proposals, Curran said.
Kathryn Masterson's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.