Planetary Boundaries: Considerations for Nitrogen and Phosphorus Management

Rebecca PowerAs I write this, the smell of fresh soil is wafting through my window. The smell comes in part from freshly tilled farm fields and in part from my freshly turned garden. In this, the International Year of Soils, we take time to learn more about how critical healthy soil is to growing everything we eat and keeping our water fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.

In addition to learning (re-learning, really) to care for our soil, we are also learning more every day about how to effectively manage two other important inputs to food, fiber, and renewable fuel production – nitrogen and phosphorus. A recent article in Scienceprovides some valuable perspective during this month of spring fever and Earth Day.

The article, by Steffen et al, is titled Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. The authors establish science-based global and regional “safe operating spaces” for nine parameters, including the biogeochemical flows of N and P. They conclude that we have entered a “high risk” zone for both elements and suggest that a greater focus on flows might offer more successful solutions to N and P management over time (e.g. a greater emphasis on reducing excess P build-up in soils). The article is great food for thought for researchers, educators and resource managers. We invite you to engage in a discussion about any implications for our work. Please post ideas and comments below.


Rebecca Power, Network Director

Testing the Waters: Evolution of an Extension Water Quality Program


By: Dan Downing, University of Missouri Extension Water Quality

Since its inception in the late 1980’s, the University of Missouri Extension Water Quality Program has grown to include many different projects and has brought in over $12 million in funding support. Today the Extension Water Quality program is working closely with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) on the Our Missouri Waters Initiative (OMW). OMW is intended to take public engagement to a higher level in voluntary watershed management plan development. There are two primary goals of this initiative:

To engage the public in development of voluntary watershed management plans for each of Missouri’s 66 (8 digit) hydrologic units that will also meet EPAs needs.
Implement internal measures within MDNR that will allow the agency to carry out more of its functions on a watershed basis.

University of Missouri Extension Water Quality Program highlights are:

Water Quality Focus Team- Although this group has used several different names its function has remained basically the same. It is a group of Extension and related agency personnel that have served as an advisory group to the water quality program staff helping guide the program and generating projects. Most of the projects below are the direct result of their creative program development.

Public Drinking Water Supply Protection – This project embodied many of the principles we continue to use in water quality programming. The focus of this project was to assist rural community drinking water supplies in dealing with run-off containing agricultural pesticides into their reservoirs. The primary approach was to bring together the rural land owners and municipal players so they could work out acceptable solutions without placing undue hardship on any of the impacted parties.

Water Festivals and Water Awareness – This project funded by the 319 program of Missouri Department of Natural Resources was an effort to create awareness of Missouri’s water resources and their significance. The project carried out numerous water awareness and education event at schools, churches, and camps. Although the project has ended many of these events have been incorporated in the local sponsor’s ongoing programs.

Missouri Watershed Academy & Water Quality Update – This training course was designed to provide agency partners and private citizens with updated information on Missouri’s water quality concerns. Nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and bacteria were topics of discussion and learning. The level 1 stream team training is offered as part of the 3 day training.

Missouri Watershed Information Network (MOWIN) – MoWIN was originally developed as a clearing house for watershed information. Information on watershed planning, local contacts and educational programs are all parts of the overall web-based information source. The most popular item is Acronym City which houses over 600 acronyms, many with direct links.

Environmental Concerns for Real Estate Transfers – The program helps real estate professionals and assessors recognize potential environmental hazards associated when farmsteads are turned into suburban lots. Modules on soil basics, private wells, abandoned wells, fertilizer and pesticide storage, on-farm petroleum storage, on-farm solid waste disposal and on-site septic systems are all factors the can impact property values and are addressed through this training.

On-Site Septic education training – This educational program focuses on homeowner and installer education on understanding the operation of an on-site sewage system and the required maintenance to keep it operating in an environmentally safe way.

Pesticides and Water Quality educational series – This program offers education on use of pesticides in vulnerable areas and the precautions and practices that should be implemented to safely apply pesticides. The educational components are designed for both urban lawn care and row crop agriculture.

CAFNR Water Center – The College of Agriculture Foods and Natural Resources (CAFNR) has established the Center for Watershed Management and Water Quality. The center is intended to provide a framework for coordinating Research, Teaching, and Extension efforts across the MU campus. The current director of the center is Dr. Jason Hubbart. Under his leadership the center has received programmatic grant funding, has held a series of educational workshops, and most recently held its inaugural watershed symposium.

You can post ideas and comments here or by contacting the Missouri Extension Water Quality Program at 205 Ag, Engineering, Columbia, MO 65211, (573) 882-0085

Call for article submissions


To all North Central Water Region Network Members:

The Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) has decided to publish a special edition of the Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education (JCWRE) with a focus on informal/non-formal water education and public outreach. JCWRE is a peer-reviewed journal published on Wiley-Blackwell’s Synergy website ( and available to researchers, educators, and policy-makers around the world. Articles published in JCWRE are widely recognized for their concise clarity and relevance to critical water resources issues and principles.

I am writing to ask that you consider submitting a paper for this important publication. We hope to accept 10-12 papers focused on informal water education and research and public outreach efforts.

Please note selected JCWRE guidelines for the articles for your general information. See the website,, for additional submission information with respect to the items listed below and requirements for tables, figures, references and the like.

  • Papers are to be submitted electronically as Microsoft Word documents (extension .docx) to JCWRE Co-Editor Jackie Crim,, and me,, the issue editor. The publication will be published in December, 2015, so we are on a fairly aggressive timeline.
    • Intent to submit: April 27, 2015 (we need lead author name and title)
    • Paper submission deadline: July 8, 2015
    • Submissions will be reviewed and accepted or rejected by September 2, 2015
    • Revised manuscripts will be due: September 30, 2015
  • Authors are asked to provide the names and contact information for 3 potential reviewers in their submittal email.
  • The manuscript text should be typed double-spaced in Times New Roman size 12 font. The text should be written so that it will be of interest to persons in the wide variety of disciplines represented by UCOWR’s membership. Subheadings in bold should be used.
  • Articles average about 8 pages in length as published, 15 pages in manuscript form (without figures and tables).
  • The Lead author is required to complete a Copyright Release Form. The form can be found in the PDF document at the top of the page and may be duplicated as needed. The completed forms must be included with your manuscript. Assignment of copyright does not restrict authors in using materials from their paper for future personal use. Our request for copyright transfer is for the purpose of complying with Public Law 94-553 and to protect both UCOWR and the author(s) from unauthorized third-party use. In addition, articles cannot be published on the Blackwell Synergy website without the copyright transfer.
  • Titles should properly reflect the contents of the article. The title should be short and informative, and should not exceed 12 words in length.
  • An abstract of no more than 250 words and up to 8 keywords must accompany each article. Keywords should not duplicate words that are in the title.
  • See the website,, for important additional submission information.

I hope you will seriously consider submitting a paper for this important publication. It is an outstanding opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise with other educators, researchers, and university administrators. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or Karl Williard, UCOWR Executive Director, if you have any questions. And remember, submissions are due July 8, 2015, but we encourage people to finish and submit their articles as they are preparing their presentations for the 2015 UCOWR/NIWR/CUAHSI conference in mid-June.


Natalie Carroll

Issue Editor, Informal Water Education and Outreach, UCOWR



Nature Climate Change: US climate policy needs behavioural science

State implementation of new Environmental Protection Agency climate regulation may shift behavioural strategies from sidelines to forefront of US climate policy…

Read more here


February NCRWN Newsletter is Out!

Each month our newsletter highlights important things taking place throughout the North Central Region Water Network. This month features a recap of the Midwest Manure Summit from Rebecca Power, a spotlight on the Michigan State University Research and Extension, information on The Current 6 webinar,  upcoming events, and funding opportunities. Read it all here. Don’t forget to subscribe!

The Current Webinar 6-Educating the Next Generation of Water Leaders

kids and water

The 6th installment of The Current Webinar series titled “Educating the Next Generation of Water Leaders” took place on Wednesday, February 18.  Listeners learned about overcoming the challenge of making water issues more relevant and personal to youth.

Elizabeth Juchems, Event Coordinator and Educator for Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms, kicked things off with her introduction to “Water Rocks! Making a Splash with Youth Water Education”. Water Rocks! is Iowa’s statewide youth education campaign. Its core objective is creating a greater appreciation for water and they work towards achieving this with an extensive library of creative materials.

Water Rocks! surpasses the mark when it comes to making water education entertaining with their colorful website, games, and catchy videos that have titles like, “The Drinking Song” and “We All Live in a Watershed”, just to name a few. They also have Public Service Announcements titled “What’s in your water?”

With an outreach initiative that includes school visits, it is only appropriate that their mascot is a pack of three dogs that they fittingly refer to as “Conservation Pack.” It is an important reminder that in order to educate, you need to think outside of the box and find new and innovative ways to get people’s attention. Youth might not perk up when you stand before them and discuss water issues, but stand up there and discuss water issues with a pack of dogs? You suddenly have a captive audience.

For more information on Water Rocks! visit Don’t forget to view their music videos which are guaranteed to get any child’s attention.

The best part about this webinar was the three varied yet practical ways to think about water issues and how to make an impact.

Would you like to see thinking? And, as an educator, if you could see your students’ thinking could you increase program impacts? According to Kate Reilly, University of Wisconsin – Extension, Environmental Education Specialist, thinking about our thinking (meta-thinking) is at the heart of ThinkWater.

ThinkWater, a national USDA/NIFA funded project, is creating a national dialogue  and practice among water educators around thinking. The project provides tools for combining science content with the science of thinking so educators can embed thinking into new and existing water activities. Reilly said, “ThinkWater is a catalyst for a national discussion around water education and how we can increase knowledge, engagement and caring from K to gray through thinking.

For more information on ThinkWater visit

Cathy Techtmann, Environmental Outreach State Specialist, introduced us to G-WOW “Changing Climate, Changing Culture.” This program offers a unique approach to driving awareness of climate change based on it on Lake Superior’s coastal environment, people, cultures, and economies.

The Ojibwe tribe has resided around Lake Superior for centuries. They rely heavily on the sustainability of key plants and animals in the area for both cultural and subsistence economic purposes. In the case of the Ojibwe, wild ricing, fishing, maple sugaring and birch bark harvesting are cultural practices that can be gravely affected by a warming climate.

The key to getting their audience to resonate with idea of climate change and how it affects them is through Place-Based Evidence: Evidence that you can see, feel, or experience based on what you observe around you. What makes the G-WOW program unique is that it links place-based evidence of climate change with scientific research from sources like the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI). Their website is loaded with curricula, activity guides, interactive tools, and games to help teachers and students learn how to investigate climate change and its implications. Professional development summer institutes are also offered. Cathy referenced “The Psychology of Climate Change Communication” –Columbia University, 2009. This is a great resource for anyone looking to drive climate change awareness that isn’t quite sure how to begin the dialogue.

The Current Webinar is an exceptional resource to learn more about other projects taking place throughout the region. It is also serves as an important reminder how much we can learn from each other. We will see you in April when we cover Managing Agriculture Drainage Water. Stay tuned for exact times and presenters!

View webinar here.

Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters Workshop a Great Success

Via The Ohio State University

Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters Initiative

In Columbus, September 14-16, 100 invited participants from 12 states (AR, IL, IN, MD, MI, MN, MS, NC, NE, OH, TN, WI), the District of Columbia, and Canada attended the Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters workshop. There were 42 faculty and 15 graduate students from 15 universities; 24 people from local, state and federal government, 12 farmers and agricultural industry participants, 6 from environmental groups and foundations, and 1 participant from an agricultural journal. The workshop was organized by The Ohio State University, Greenleaf Advisors LLC and with sponsorship from Gypsoil LLC. The focus of the workshop was on reducing and preventing excess nutrient exports associated with crop production systems that are causing hypoxia and harmful algae blooms.

The long term goal of this initiative is to create an integrated science, education, economic, and extension-based framework that results in agricultural producers using adaptive systems management approaches that maintain or enhance productivity and profitability while reducing the nutrient exports that cause adverse water quality impacts such as hypoxia and harmful algal blooms. The Symposium series brings together producers, industry, leading practitioners, scientific researchers, community leaders, agency personnel, and environmental groups who are committed to advancing improved agronomic practices for soil and water health. Specific objectives are to:

  1. Develop practical conceptual solutions at different scales that identify the combination of practices and resources it would take to reduce nutrient exports below target nutrient levels.
  2. Identify what incentives, strategies, tools, knowledge, and outreach education would be needed to implement the proposed conceptual solutions.
  3. Identify the time frame and cost associated with meeting the water quality objectives.
  4. Identify the transferability of the conceptual solutions to other watersheds in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins.
  5. Identify knowledge, technology, and education gaps.
  6. Consider how climate change and a potential need to increase productivity might influence these water quality strategies and water use for multiple purposes including agriculture.
  7. Build frameworks where different organizations and different disciplines work better together, and with producers and industry, to more effectively solve problems associated with nutrient impacts on water resources.

The innovative approach of the HSHW Initiative is to have interdisciplinary teams develop conceptual solutions at field and watershed scales for real world case studies with the target regions. A tenet of this approach is farmer involvement in developing the solutions and the identification of the infrastructure and resource needs to meet nutrient reduction goals for the case studies. At the workshop overviews of 15 potential case studies (10 in the Mississippi River Basin and 5 in the Lake Erie Region) were presented and used as a platform for discussion in small breakout groups.

In addition to breakout group discussions there were short presentations that provided knowledge on the challenge and potential best management practices.
A common voice was that:

  • The problem needs to be solved as food, water, energy and the environment are all important.
  • Solutions should be site specific.
  • These are complex systems that require a systems approach to formulate solutions.
  • Farmers must be involved in developing the solutions.
  • Approaches need to sustain agricultural productivity and economic viability.
  • The performance of different agricultural and conservation practice is very variable so improved knowledge and outreach education is needed on where practices do or do not work.
  • More soil testing and edge-of-field monitoring is needed to identify fields that have excess nutrient loads or are not a problem.

The participants will reconvene at a symposium next May to present results from more than a dozen case studies where stakeholder teams that include scientists and farmers have determined what it will take, at field to watershed scales, to meet water quality targets. The May symposium will be open to the public. In conjunction with the symposium there will be a meeting of the Federal Hypoxia Task Force and a new Land Grant University Hypoxia Initiative that will assist the Federal Hypoxia Task Force.
Andy Ward,

2014 National Climate Assessment

The U.S. Global Change Research Program’s website offers full access to the 2014 National Climate Assessment. The user interface is easy to use and provides great visual summaries of the regional climate snapshots provided in the report.

Grant Opportunity – National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP)

Please see the link below for details on a new grant opportunity through USDA-NIFA. All applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on July 3, 2014.