An agricultural engineer and an artist walk into a room? Where are you?
While it sounds like the beginning of a pun, it was actually the premise for the North Central Region One Water Action Forum which took place last week in Indianapolis. The event was a collaboration between the North Central Region Water Network, the Soil and Water Conservation Society, the Iowa Soybean Association and the US Water Alliance, and it brought together extension and land-grant researchers and educators, tribal representatives, utilities, conservation and environmental NGO staff, agricultural organizations, local, state and federal agency officials, industry professionals, municipalities and others. Together, this diverse group explored different perspectives on water and what it means to be part of the one water movement.
The forum featured nine working sessions on a variety of water-related topics from watershed management and soil health to water infrastructure and diversity and inclusion in water management, outreach and education. The working sessions were organized and moderated by North Central Region Water Network leadership team members and Soil and Water Conservation Society, Iowa Soybean Association and US Water Alliance staff. The working sessions featured panelists who shared new perspectives and knowledge on the issues, and working time for the attendees to discuss what actions would help move the issue forward in a more integrated, sustainable, and inclusive manner.
The actions identified through working sessions were as varied as the topics themselves. Some sessions decided to create a group listserv to continue the conversation and look for potential grant opportunities, while others brainstormed systemic changes that need to be made to better facilitate change. Others still, discussed opportunities to create new programming around training and education or community assessments. Working session leaders shared their results with the full group to help expand participation in next steps and identify potential synergies among topics.
The event wasn’t all work – attendees had the chance to play a new version of the Nutrient Reduction Game, a game where participants get the experience and analyze the kinds of changes needed to significantly reduce nutrient loss. There was also an attendee photo booth where groups could pose for a picture, and a water bar where attendees taste test waters from around the Midwest.
And there was plenty of time for conversation and networking – a key goal of the forum. Given the range of roles forum attendees represented, many attendees had never met. They had the opportunity to speak with individuals working in water across the region and find common ground. Moreover, attendees heard from plenary speakers who shared examples of their collaborative work, or shared their perspective on water and how to make a meaningful impact in our local waterways and beyond.
While the event is over, we know the discussions will continue. The North Central Region Water Network recently released a new request for applications for Network seed funds. One of the priorities of the request is for applicants to address opportunities and actions arising from the Action Forum.
“We wanted to provide some funding support to jump-start ideas coming out of the forum,” said Rebecca Power, Director of the North Central Region Water Network. “We know this is one small step, but we’re glad to do our part to help.” Lead applicants must have an extension affiliation or appointment, but all partners are welcome!
For those interested in learning more about the RFA, visit the funding page on our website. And be sure to check the forum website, onewaternc.org, as we begin to upload notes from the working sessions, pictures, presentations, and more.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in Indy!