Spiny Water Fleas, a Cautionary Tale

By: Rebecca Power
My home watershed is Lake Wingra, Yahara Watershed, Dane County, Wisconsin. Sometime right around 2009, the spiny water flea was found in Lake Mendota, a part of the chain of rivers and lakes in the Yahara Watershed. While I am sad about the fact that there is now one more complicating factor in our efforts to maintain our local rivers and lakes for everyone to use and enjoy, I love the spiny water flea invasion story because it elegantly illustrates the importance of systems approach in water resource management and why we should err on the side of conservation.
So what’s the story, you ask?
The spiny water flea is native to the Ponto-Caspian region of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It hitchhiked to the United States in the ballast water of a transatlantic shipping vessel, invading the Laurentian Great Lakes. It then hopscotched from the Great Lakes to inland lakes in the Midwest and Northeast U.S., including Wisconsin’s Lake Mendota.
For decades, conservationists have been working to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Mendota and the associated algae blooms. Phosphorus sources are both urban and rural, with the majority of phosphorus coming from agricultural lands. Recent efforts by a diversity of partners have developed a robust plan for meeting water quality standards and an estimate for how much it will cost.
While human efforts to clean up the Yahara Watershed get most of the attention, we have a tiny partner in our efforts – the algae-munching Daphnia.  Daphnia eat enough algae to add 2 feet of water clarity (measured by the depth of secchi disk visibility) in Lake Mendota.
However, to hungry spiny water fleas, Daphnia are “like a nice, slow-moving piece of steak,” according to researcher Jake Walsh. Spiny water fleas have decimated Daphnia populations and led to subsequent increases in days where the water in Lake Mendota is green and murky.  Walsh and others estimate that a 71% reduction in phosphorus would be required to return the lake to pre-invasion conditions, costing between $80 and $163 million. This is on top of – and substantially more than – the estimated $44 million to meet to water quality standards.
And this is just one lake, in one Midwestern U.S. state.
For me, this story is a reminder of how important a systems approach is to maintaining our soil and water resources.  If I want to reduce algae blooms in my home watershed and across the North Central Region, I need to consider ballast water management as well as nutrient management planning. Projects like the STRIPS project led by Iowa State University, or projects that deepen our understanding of the microbiome and its impacts on soil and nutrient cycling remind us to think more broadly about how to be effective stewards of water resources.

Improve Your Soil Health Management Systems: Free Webinar

Iowa state university

 Soil Health Webinar: Aug. 24 from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. CT presented by ISU and NRCS

Free webinar is open to anyone interested in improving their soil health management system

AMES, Iowa –  Field agronomists, farmers and others interested in soil health are encourage to join the soil health webinar on iowastateuAug. 24 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. The webinar will be presented by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), and qualifies for one soil and water continuing education credit for Certified Crop Advisers.

“The objective of this webinar is to provide information that will help advance understanding of soil health concept and management practices that will improve soil health,” said Mahdi Al-Kaisi, professor of agronomy and extension soil management specialist at Iowa State University. “We also hope it provides an opportunity for professional training for those whom are seeking credits in soil and water management.”

This webinar will be an hour long presentation that covers three topics:

  • Presentation on soil health basic concept and soil functions, and soil physical and biological indicators by Al-Kaisi.
  • Application of management practices for improving soil biology as an essential component of soil health by Rick Bednarek, state soil scientist with USDA-NRCS.
  • Planning and resource management to enhance and protect soil heath, by Doug Peterson, Iowa and Missouri Regional Soil Health Specialist with the National Soil Health Division of the NRCS.

At the end of the three presentations, 10-15 minutes will be set aside to answer questions. Use the following link to access the webinar: The webinar will be conducted using Adobe Connect, so Adobe software is required to access the presentation.

“This webinar is applicable to anyone interested in soil health issues,” said Al-Kaisi. “The goal is to continue the discussion about soil health, and provide information about resources for farmers and agronomists that are available at ISU Extension and Outreach and the NRCS.”

If you are unable to view the recording on Aug. 24., a link to the webinar will be posted on the Iowa State University soil management web page ( within one week of the presentation date.

If you would like more information or have questions, please contact Mahdi Al-Kaisi at 515-294-8304 or

Related Links:

Iowa State University Soil Management

Soil Health Conference

Related Publications:

Iowa Soil Health Field Guide

Iowa Soil Health Management Manual

Iowa Soil Health Assessment Card


Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Professor and Extension Soil Management Specialist

Iowa State University

Jerry Hatfield Awarded Hugh Hammond Bennett Award

This content came from the Soil and Water Conservation Society 2016 Conference Brochure

The Hugh Hammond Bennett Award recognizes extraordinary national and international accomplishments in the conservation of soil, water, and related natural resources.

Jerry Hatfield is a plant physiologist and the laboratory director at the USDA Agricultural Research Service National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment. Hatfield’s career has been devoted to soil and water conservation issues, and he travels and speaks tirelessly to raise awareness of the links between climate, agricultural management, production, and soil and water quality. While he did not create a new institution, he has managed a large research laboratory for a quarter of a century and has provided signi cant leadership to the Agricultural Research Service, academic societies, organizations focused on conservation, as well as to multi-institutional and multinational research efforts.

He has been responsible for providing the technical manage- ment for multiagency, multilocation, and multidisciplinary programs such as the Management Systems Evaluation Areas (MSEA) and Agricultural Systems for Environmental Quality (AWEQ) across the Midwest. Hatfield has also led efforts in livestock and cropping systems research, as well as the impacts of climate change on agriculture. His character and demeanor are outstanding. He is honest, persistent, and has great integrity. Like Hugh Hammond Bennett, he has tirelessly spent his career raising awareness in conservation and supporting and defending soil and water conservation issues. To this end, Jerry Hatfield is well deserving of this year’s Hugh Hammond Bennett Award. View more here. 

The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) has named Chad Watts as new Executive Director

Watts joined CTIC in 2012 as Project Director, leading a range of highly successful conservation programs including the Indian Creek Watershed Project, the Great Lakes Cover Crop Initiative and the influential National Cover Crop Survey, which has been cited in Congressional testimony.

“Chad’s deep commitment to conservation agriculture and his experience with agricultural conservation systems, local capacity building, and bringing a wide range of interests together to develop programs that help farmers and the environment make him an outstanding choice for CTIC’s executive director,” says Lara Moody, senior director of stewardship and sustainability programs at The Fertilizer Institute and chair of CTIC’s board of directors. “Chad’s organizational skills and leadership will help CTIC implement its new strategic plan.”

Watts, an Indiana native, began his career in conservation with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources soon after graduating from Purdue University in 1994. He then moved to The Nature Conservancy, where he launched the 1.2 million acre Tippecanoe River Watershed Project, which he managed for 12 years before joining CTIC. Watts lives with his family near Winamac, Indiana, and is very active in his local community.

CTIC, based in West Lafayette, Indiana, is national public-private partnership that champions, promotes and provides information on farming systems that conserve and enhance soil, water, air and wildlife resources. Since 2008, CTIC has hosted Conservation in Action Tours around the country, and this year’s event will be held in Treasure Valley, Idaho August 23-24. Find out more here.

Extension Programs Host Land Use and Management Practices to Enhance Water Quality Workshop; Curriculum Available for Use

Fargo, North Dakota –In the Northern Great Plains, livestock production and watershed management often go hand in hand. If not managed properly, this combination can lead to water contaminated with harmful bacteria.  This is the issue Miranda Meehan, her colleagues at North Dakota State University Extension, South Dakota State University Extension, and the University of Nebraska Extension set out to address by hosting two Land Use and Management Practices to Enhance Water Quality Workshops. The workshops provided training and curriculum to Extension professionals, educators and Technical Service Providers to help them address water quality concerns related to land use and nutrient management.

Participants can utilize the curriculum and skills learned at the workshop in programs within their areas/counties, miranda4increasing producers and land managers’ awareness of issues impacting water quality and knowledge of management strategies to improve water quality. Workshop curriculum including PowerPoints, presentations, handouts, and lesson plans are available for use here.

E.coli bacteria is the leading cause of impairment of many water bodies in the North Great Plains. This leading source of impairment has been linked to livestock production, specifically riparian grazing,” said Miranda Meehan, North Dakota State University Extension, “To date there has been no training provided to Extension educators in the project area on watershed management.”

The educational programs will increase public awareness of management and stewardship practices that will enhance habitat and water quality within watersheds in the participating states.

“Being able to learn the topic, then see, or apply the theory behind it in the field was great. Also, meeting other professionals you can introduce to local producers and improve their operation and stewardship practices is beneficial,” said attendee Nicole Wardner, NDSU Extension Service, “We don’t always have the answers, but if you can direct them or link them with someone who does it keeps momentum going for improving the land.”

The workshops are part of a seed-funded project grant provided by the North Central Region Water Network which is a 12-state collaboration designed to enhance connectivity across regional and state water projects, develop and carry out integrated outreach and education efforts, and coordinate projects with measurable short and long-term environmental and social impacts. More information on this seed-funded project and curriculum that was presented at the workshops can be found here: Professional Development for Extension Professionals and Educators on Land Use and Management Practice to Enhance Water Quality.

For more information, contact:

Miranda Meehan, Extension Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist, North Dakota State University


For media inquires, contact:

Amber Schmechel, UW-Extension, Environmental Resources Center


miranda 2

Midwest Cover Crops Council appoints program manager

July 5, 2016

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Midwest Cover Crops Council has responded to increasing interest in cover crops across the region by hiring its first program manager, a Purdue Extension educator.Anna Morrow began her new role with the MCCC as a staff member in Purdue University’s Department of Agronomy on July 1. She now works out of Extension’s Shelby County office and will be on the university’s West Lafayette campus as needed.

“We are excited to have an experienced county Extension educator join our team as our first program manager,” said Eileen Kladivko, professor of agronomy and a founding member of the MCCC. “Anna brings experience in working with producers on a variety of challenges in Midwestern row crop and animal agriculture, and we look forward to working with her to move cover crop adoption and the MCCC into the future.”

Kladivko said the council has continued to grow since its beginnings in 2006, as has the interest and use of cover crops across the Midwest.

“We needed a full-time program manager to help improve our current outreach tools and develop new ones, provide timely information on cover crops to our website, be a point of contact for the council, and generally improve our capacity to be the go-to source of information about cover crops in the Midwest,” she said.

Morrow grew up on a small Indiana farm of livestock and crops in Shelby County near Saint Paul, and she still helps on it. She earned a B.S. in biochemistry and an M.S. in agronomy at Purdue, through which she researched soil and pasture management on a Costa Rican dairy farm. She had been Franklin County’s agriculture and natural resources educator for Purdue Extension since 2012.

The MCCC is a regional group committed to facilitating widespread adoption of cover crops across the Midwest for purposes of soil health, water quality and crop productivity. It creates Extension products such as a pocket field guide and an online Selector Tool and presents educational meetings about cover crops across the region consisting of 12 states and Ontario, Canada.

More information about the MCCC is available on its website at

Writer: Keith Robinson, 765-494-2722,

Sources: Eileen Kladivko, 765-494-6372,
Anna Morrow, 317-392-6460,

Monitor Water Quality During Grazing

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 11.35.28 AM

Original Article

FARGO, N.D. — While some parts of North Dakota have received ample rainfall during the early growing season, other areas have not and are experiencing reduced hay crops and lack of pasture regrowth. In addition, these areas are having water quality issues in places where rainfall is needed to refresh stock ponds and watering holes.

“There are reports of areas in the southwest and parts of central North Dakota that are having water quality issues in stock ponds and watering holes where cattle have no other options for water,” says North Dakota State University Extension Service livestock environmental stewardship specialist Miranda Meehan.

Poor water quality can impact livestock health negatively, according to Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist.

“At a minimum, it can result in decreased water consumption, reducing feed intake and gains,” he adds. “However, elevated levels of some salts and bacteria can result in severe illness and even death.”

NDSU veterinary toxicologist Michelle Mostrom says water sources should be tested for total dissolved solids (TDS), sulfates and nitrates. TDS measure salts. These levels should be less than 5,000 parts per million (ppm) for most classes of grazing livestock. Elevated levels of TDS may not be harmful to livestock health.

“However, due to our geology in North Dakota, water with high TDS often has high sulfate levels,” Mostrom says.

Sulfate recommendations are less than 500 ppm for calves and less than 1,000 ppm for adult cattle. High levels of sulfate can reduce copper availability in the diet. Elevated levels of sulfates may cause loose stool, whereas very high levels of sulfate can induce central nervous system problems and polioencephelomalacia, a brain disorder found in cattle.

Nitrate is not toxic to animals, but at elevated levels, it causes nitrate poisoning. Water sources that receive runoff from fields and confined feeding locations that contain elevated levels of nitrogen are at risk of contamination.

Water with elevated nutrient levels also are at a higher risk for blue-green algae blooms in periods of hot, dry weather. Some species of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) contain toxins that can be deadly when livestock and wildlife consume them.

“Monitoring water quality throughout the grazing season is important because it changes in response to climate and environmental conditions,” Meehan says. “What is especially important is to keep a close eye on water quality during drought when using a shallow water source and sources with a history of water quality issues.”

Many commercial laboratories and the NDSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory provide testing for livestock water quality and specialized testing. The cost of a basic water quality test is approximately $25. Contact an NDSU Extension office for a list of commercial laboratories in the state.

If concerned about livestock diseases caused by contaminated drinking water, contact your local veterinarian, the NDSU Extension veterinarian or the NDSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at 701-231-8307 or

More information on livestock water quality is available in the following Extension publications:

Livestock Water Requirements (AS1763) –
Livestock Water Quality (AS1764) –
Nitrate Poisoning of Livestock (V839) –
Cyanobacteria Poisoning (Blue-green Algae) (V1136) –
— NDSU Agriculture Communication

Great Lakes Governors Approve and Set Conditions for Limited Diversion of Lake Michigan Water to Waukesha, Wisconsin

June 21, 2016

CHICAGO – The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council (Compact Council) on Tuesday approved the Great Lakes water diversion application forwarded by the State of Wisconsin and submitted by the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin, subject to conditions required by the Compact Council.

The application sought an exception to the Great Lakes Compact’s ban on the diversion of water from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin (Basin). The City of Waukesha is a community in a county that straddles the basin divide, one of three potential bases for obtaining an exception to the Compact’s ban on diversions.

The Compact Council, which is composed of the Governors of the eight states bordering the Great Lakes, voted without dissent to approve with conditions the diversion of an annual average day demand of 8.2 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan to the City of Waukesha and required Waukesha to return an equal volume of water to the Lake Michigan watershed. The treated wastewater returned to the Basin will be required to meet Clean Water Act water quality discharge standards.

The Compact Council resolution to approve the diversion incorporated a series of conditions established in the “Declaration of Finding” issued last month by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Governors’ and Premiers’ Regional Body, which includes the eight Governors and the Premiers of Ontario and Québec.

Waukesha’s original application request was for 10.1 MGD to serve an expanded service area, including several neighboring towns. The Compact Council approval contains a series of conditions including:
· reducing the amount approved to 8.2 million MGD;
· limiting the service area to the city’s current area serviced and town islands;
· continuing implementation and enforcement of Waukesha’s water conservation and efficiency plan with the goal of a 10 percent demand reduction;
· implementing a comprehensive pharmaceutical and personal care products recycling program and encourage reduction of those products into wastewater; and
· submitting public annual reports that document the daily, monthly and annual amounts of water diverted and returned to Lake Michigan.

Waukesha is the only community to have requested a “straddling county” diversion since state and federal law established the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact in 2008. The Compact governs how the states work together to manage and protect the Basin. The law allows for consideration of limited exceptions to the ban on diversions, including for public water supply purposes to communities close to but outside the Basin divide.

The City of Waukesha submitted its original application to the State of Wisconsin in 2010, and Wisconsin forwarded Waukesha’s revised application to the Regional Body and Compact Council on Jan. 7, 2016. On the same day, the Regional Body and Compact Council launched a website ( to provide the public with information about the application and to accept comments. A two-month public comment period on the application began on January 12 and ended on March 14, and during that time over 11,000 comments were received from the public.

On February 17, the members of the Regional Body and Compact Council toured sites related to the diversion application and asked questions of the City of Waukesha in a public forum. On February 18, the members of the Regional Body and Compact Council convened a meeting with Tribes and First Nations, followed by a public hearing at Carroll University in Waukesha. On April 21 and 22 and May 10 and 11, the Regional Body discussed the application in public meetings held at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Two conference call webinars, also open to the public, were conducted May 2 and 18 when the Regional Body concluded its deliberations and approved the Declaration of Finding.

The Compact Council’s approval of the application with conditions allows the State of Wisconsin to proceed with its regulatory decision-making and permitting for the diversion as conditioned by the Compact Council’s action.

# # #
CONTACT: Peter Johnson
(312) 407-0177 (office)
(312) 305-4133 (mobile)

Stormwater Practices and Maintenance Core Course


Project Contact:
Shahram Missaghi, PhD
Extension Educator, University of Minnesota

Human activity on the landscape has drastically changed the natural hydrologic cycle by concentrating much of the output into surface water as excessive runoff. Some consequences of excessive runoff are flash flooding, loss of property and significant water quality degradation. Since the 1980s, a national effort called green infrastructure has focused on remedying the problem by providing a series of tools to minimize the impact of our developments by mimicking natural hydrology. Recently, there has been expanded and rapid growth in the number of publicly available stormwater educational programs for professionals and communities that focus on green infrastructure tools (referred to as best management practices). However, much of the growth is home based and addresses specific local needs and issues. Until now, a publicly available, uniform and comprehensive stormwater core curriculum has been missing. A collaborative group of stormwater educators have led the effort to develop a program to address this need.

StormwaterBuilding the collaborations:
A network of collaborative group of stormwater educators from across the country was created to develop such educational program as described above. The group met regularly to identify the theme, specific topics, and the best delivery methods for the proposed curriculum. The collaborative also identified the specific topics (such as design of stormwater practices vs. their construction), the necessary level of knowledge, and the appropriate audience for the specific topic.

Pilot Test:
A pilot test was conducted, June 2015. Project partners were involved in compiling a list of potential individuals representing the identified targeted audience to participate in the pilot test. The pilot testers were invited (email) to participate having been asked to take the course and complete a survey to record their experience and to share comments about the course. Feedback was received from five pilot testers (N=5) and was used to refine the course once more. The subsequent changes in the course were significant enough that it compelled us to conduct another set of pilot testers (N=6). The current course reflects all the changes and the course has been well received by recent users.

Evaluation :
A formative evaluation of the curriculum will be required from the participants upon their completion of the curriculum prior to issuance of a certificate of completion. Participant attendance and progress will be monitored. Subsequent use of course materials for training at local offices or larger events will be tracked and evaluated to measure project impact.

Promotions: we will be at the 2016 ANREP delivering a 30 min presentation on the purpose of the Core Curriculum, how folks can get involved with NCRWN Stormwater Community; and sharing the process (story) of how the core curriculum got developed. Soon, we will also have an updated poster that we can share with our partners to present/post at various events and functions.
Future: We have monthly teleconferences on the second Tuesday at 9:00 am, and all are welcome to attend – just email us for telemeting instructions
Impact: We all have learned much from participating in developing the core curriculum and have been able to apply these learning in other areas as well. For example, recently, we (MN Extension) had applied for an EPA education grant  – where much of the grant outline was based on our learning from developing the core curriculum. Particularly, we duplicated the development process from the core curriculum project.

Leadership Spotlight: Forging new internal partnerships at OSU to address harmful algal blooms in Ohio’s privately owned and managed lakes

By: Joe Bonnell

I’m going to use the opportunity of this month’s Leadership Spotlight to highlight a new project at The Ohio State University that represents a new collaboration between OSU Extension and the Ohio Water Resources Center in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering.

In the past several years in Ohio and in some respects, globally, harmful algal blooms (HABs) have become more frequent and have garnered the attention of the popular media. In Ohio, the harmful algal blooms on Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Mary’s (Ohio’s largest inland lake) and on the Ohio River have made headline news and in 2014 national attention came to the HAB crisis when the City of Toledo was forced to issue a “do not drink” advisory when mycrocystin toxin from HABs were detected in the treated drinking water. While much of the attention has been focused on these high profile cases, there is also growing concern about eutrophication and HABs in the many thousands of smaller, privately owned and managed lakes and ponds (Ohio has approximately 50,000 lakes and small ponds) that Ohioan’s enjoy for boating, fishing, and swimming during the summer months. In 2011, the Ohio Lake Management Society published their Citizen Lake Awareness and Monitoring (CLAM) results; based on average Secchi disk values from 27 lakes, 70% were eutrophic and 22% were hypereutrophic, suggesting these lakes may be at high risk for HABs.

While many manuals and handbooks are available to lake managers describing various methods for reducing nutrient enrichment and suppressing algal growth, the long-term success of these techniques is not known and many lake managers are not formally trained in lake management techniques and therefore may not be familiar with the range of management strategies available. Furthermore, there is a notable gap in information and educational programs for managers of privately owned and managed lakes.

In response to this perceived need, faculty and staff from OSU Extension in the School of Environment and Natural Resources and the Ohio Water Resources Center were awarded a grant from the Office of Outreach and Engagement to reach out to lake managers in Medina County to monitor lake conditions and address their educational needs through a series of workshops and publications on lake management techniques for reducing the risks of HABs. The collaborators chose Medina County because it has the largest concentration of medium-sized lakes in the state.

The project represents the multi-disciplinary, integrated research and extension work that the Land Grant Universities like Ohio State are so well positioned to undertake. Lake managers in Medina County will be surveyed to determine their baseline level of knowledge of lake management and monitoring techniques, current management practices, lake management issues, and level of interest in educational programs and materials related to HABs. Lake managers who are interested will then be invited to participate in a workshop to learn how to monitor for HABs, nutrient levels, and other indicators of eutrophication. A subset of these lake managers will be selected to conduct detailed sampling of their lakes. Samples will be analyzed by the Environmental Engineering laboratory. The Extension Program Director for Aquatic Ecosystems will work with the lake managers to develop management strategies based on monitoring results and monitoring results will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of various management techniques. Lessons learned from this program will be applied to developing a practical guide and series of extension fact sheets for lake managers and homeowner associations. Participating lake managers will be surveyed at the end of the project to evaluate learning outcomes and changes in management practices.

Anticipated outcomes of this program are increased knowledge of algal problems and sustainable lake management practices among lake managers and decreased use of chemicals applied to medium-sized lakes. If this pilot program in Medina County proves successful, the collaborators from OSU Extension and Ohio Water Resources Center continue their collaboration and expand the program to increase our understanding of the extent of HABs in Ohio’s medium-sized lakes, to evaluate the effectiveness of lake management techniques and, ultimately, to reduce the health risks and economic impacts of harmful algal blooms around the state.

For more information about this project, contact Eugene Braig, Program Director for Aquatic Ecosystems at

Joe Bonnell, PhD, The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources
Joe BonnellJoe Bonnell currently serves as Program Director for Watershed Management in the School of Environment and Natural Resources. He received his PhD in Natural Resources from The Ohio State University in 2001. His extension and research programs have focused on collaborative approaches to watershed management and fostering behavior change to address nonpoint source pollution, particularly in agricultural watersheds. Dr. Bonnell was a member of the team that developed the Social Indicators Planning and Evaluation System to improve the delivery and evaluation of education and outreach programs targeting nonpoint source pollution. He is also co-director of the Ohio Watershed Academy and Ohio Environmental Leaders Institute.
Joe Bonnell, PhD
Program Director, Watershed Management/The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources
210 Kottman Hall, 2021 Coffey Rd
Columbus, OH 43210
(614) 292-9383