State and regional water conferences bringing stakeholders together to learn about various water-related issues are a common occurrence. One such conference, the Eastern South Dakota Water Conference, has been held for over ten years.
This year’s event, which took take place on November 8, 2017, featured a unique component. A conversation between conference planning committee chair, David Kringen, and South Dakota NRCS State Conservationist, Jeff Zimprich, sparked the idea. Further work by the planning committee yielded the “Stakeholder Working Conference” format which incorporated input from a diversity of stakeholder groups to develop an action plan for the future of South Dakota water resources.
The conference’s morning session was similar to traditional conferences in that it featured presentations outlining the state of South Dakota water resources, data collection and monitoring efforts, and overviewed current research efforts and success stories. Posters featuring university research and private industry water projects were also displayed throughout the day. The keynote speaker was EPA Region 8 Agricultural Advisor, Rebecca Perrin who gave examples of successful collaborations. She used the Iowa Nutrient Plan, amongst other projects, as an example of current efforts between groups from different backgrounds to improve water quality.
The afternoon session featured stakeholders coming together for a moderated roundtable discussion to answer a series of challenging questions. The discussion started with defining the biggest challenges facing South Dakota’s water resources. The discussion then turned to stakeholders characterizing what success looks like and reasonable goals for the future. To bridge the gap between current conditions and the picture of success, stakeholders were asked to consider how to optimize current efforts and what action they can take as individuals or groups to meet the previously defined goals.
Following last month’s conference, the South Dakota Water Resources Institute plans to publish a white paper outlining the state’s needs and the action plan developed by conference participants. To ensure the plan served all of South Dakota’s interests, stakeholders from all industries and perspectives were invited to participate, collaborate, and share their ideas. The action plan could impact the future direction of research, monitoring, and management of South Dakota’s water resources, so it is critical all voices were incorporated.
Story by John McMaine. John is an assistant professor and extension water management engineer in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department at South Dakota State University and a member of the North Central Region Water Network Leadership Team.