Testing the Waters: Evolution of an Extension Water Quality Program

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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.┬áToday 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