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 www.waterrocks.org. 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 www.waterthinkers.org.

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 www.g-wow.org/ 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, ward.2@osu.edu

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.


An Introduction to the North Central Region Water Network

Dear Colleagues,

My fellow Extension Directors and I need your assistance and collaboration in addressing water quality and quantity issues across the North Central Region. Water has been in the news a lot lately, too frequently as bad news. California is facing its worst drought in decades. 100-year storms seem much more frequent than once a century. Chemical contamination of rivers in West Virginia and North Carolina provide a painful reminder of the need for vigilance and rigor in the protection of water resources.

If these stories have any bright side, it is that they remind us of a fundamental truth. Whether we’re growing corn or cattle, making plastics or paper, drinking water out of the tap, brewing it into beer, fishing, swimming, or watching the sunset over our favorite lake or stream, none of these activities is possible without water.

As an Extension Director in the North Central Region, I have the privilege of seeing our educators work with individuals, organizations, communities, and state/federal agencies to address the diversity of water resources we face in the Midwest. Most of our states are seen as water rich. Minnesota boasts the nickname “land of 10,000 lakes”. Michigan is sometimes called the Great Lakes state because its shores touch four of the Laurentian Great Lakes. The mighty Mississippi River courses down the middle of our nation’s breadbasket. However, looking west to our neighbors in Great Plains states, water scarcity is a fact of life. As a result, they’ve learned valuable lessons about water conservation that my home state of Illinois and my current state of Wisconsin are only beginning to apply.

This brings me to an important point about Extension education in the 21st century. Water resource management is complex and changing quickly as our climate and land uses change, and to respond effectively, we must work together across states and institutions to provide research, education, and community engagement programs that move us toward more sustainable ways of managing our water.

Each of our universities has unique and talented individuals that specialize in a wide range of topics. Livestock management, urban stormwater management, irrigation management, drainage management, volunteer engagement, social marketing and behavior change, economic development, and public policy are just a few of the many areas of expertise Extension has to offer across the North Central Region. Here’s another fundamental truth – no one state has the ability to provide all the necessary expertise.

That is why my fellow Extension Directors and I are urging you to participate in the new North Central Region Water Network. The goals of the Network are to:

  • Increase connectivity and learning among university professionals and our partners engaged in water-related research, education, and management
  • Strengthen the resource base available for Extension education
  • Generate measurable environmental and social impacts in the short and long-term

The Network will build on the successes of the Great Lakes, Heartland, and Northern Plains and Mountains Regional Water Programs work to strengthen linkages among the diverse and rich water extension and research programs currently underway in each of our states. Our purpose is not to create another institute or center. We want to bring educators and researchers together across state lines to address issues expressed by the individuals, organizations, and communities we serve. And we want to celebrate successes that our collective research and educational programs bring to those dependent on water quantity and quality.

Each Extension Director in the North Central Region has designated a State Coordinator to bring the needs of each state to the region and to bring regional resources back to their respective states. Please contact your State Coordinator to learn more about what the North Central Water Network might have to offer you. We encourage educators working on both state and local water-related issues to get involved. The Network is looking to serve all Extension colleagues as well as researchers that are looking to expand their outreach efforts. If you’re not sure who your State Coordinator is, you can find them all here.

Keep in mind that the Network is forming now, so we are looking for contributors and expect the resources available to educators to grow over time. In addition to the State Coordinators, the Network is offering The Current, a seven part “speed networking” series for university extension and research professionals interested in accessing the best water-related research and extension programming from across the North Central region. The Current speed networking webinars will begin on April 2 by addressing a critical topic across the region, “Managing Water Supply: Resources for Education, Engagement, and Research”. I will be doing the first presentation to introduce the Network. Then three speakers will have 10 minutes each to provide a snapshot of their applied research or extension work and why it might be useful to you. In the remaining 20 minutes, participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and engage in discussion with colleagues. You can find more information about The Current here, and I invite you all to attend.

On behalf of my fellow Extension Directors, I thank you for the transformative work you do every day to make our states and communities more vibrant and sustainable places to live. We hope that the North Central Region Water Network will be a valuable resource for you as you address water-related issues with the constituencies you serve.


Rick Klemme
Extension Director Liaison
University of Wisconsin-Extension

ANREP/NACDEP 2016 Joint Conference Request for Proposals

The National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) and the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals (ANREP) are seeking bids to host their first ever joint national meeting in the late spring or early summer of 2016. We desire to hold our respective annual meetings in one location/facility to take advantage of the synergy of our mutual interests and associated professions. We need an attractive location that can accommodate our combined groups (approximately 600 attendees), and one that offers space for separate association business meetings, and approximately 18 rooms of various sizes for general/concurrent sessions and other conference functions. We envision overlapping activities between the two associations at joint meals, field tours, and in large audience environments/meetings (such as receptions, shared keynotes, and capstones).

Proposals must be returned to Kelly Nix, Kelly.Nix@mail.wvu.edu no later than April 9, 2014. Proposals will be accepted from Extension faculty at Land Grant Universities in any state(s), although preference will be given in the Northeast Region of the US. These states include: ME, NH, PA, VT, MA, CT, NY, NJ, RI, DE, MD, and WV. Extension faculty in two or more adjoining states may co-host this event. We recognize that serving as a Host State for a national conference is a major undertaking, but it also is an opportunity to showcase the quality of your staff and the extension programs and special features of your state.

Download Full PDF

Fertilizer Limits Sought Near Lake Erie to Fight Spread of Algae

View recent New York Times article here.

Welcome to the North Central Region Water Network

Thank you for visiting our website and collaborative water blog. Over the coming weeks and months, we will use this space to share and discuss water related issues, projects, and education opportunities that directly impact our 12-state region. We look forward to thoughtful conversation and input from a variety of perspectives. Thank you for your interest in our network and stay tuned for updates.