At the North Central Region Water Network, we are committed to coordinating and funding initiatives focusing on a variety of priority water-related topics. Network funded initiatives connect recognized Extension leaders throughout the region with collaborators across sectors and disciplines to address water issues and generate measurable short and long term impacts.
Below are the eight priority water areas we are advancing in collaboration with our initiatives and their partners across the region.
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) have well-documented negative impacts on communities and aquatic ecosystems across the nation. AIS has been shown to reduce densities of desirable native species, impact regionally threatened and endangered species, and alter nutrient cycling and hydrology contributing to harmful algal blooms and the transmission of pathogens and parasites to native organisms.
Changes in climate impact agriculture and water quality in the North Central Region. Extreme weather events can drastically impact our waterways and crop productivity. Climate variability creates shifts in crops, cropping seasons, and plant hardiness zones. Moreover, the management practices used to adapt to these changes greatly influence water quality and supply making climate education and outreach critical.
Land use planning and watershed planning are interconnected making water conservation a key component of community, shareholder, and landowner planning. Land use practices such as livestock grazing, feeding, and handling operations and development practices spanning both urban and rural landscapes can contribute to point and non-point source pollution and the health of our waterways.
Nitrogen and phosphorus are important plant nutrients. They are also byproducts of animal agriculture and municipal wastewater treatment. Excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in water negatively impacts humans and the environment. Activities and resources associated with this priority issue support all aspects of nutrient and manure management that lead to the concurrent achievement of agricultural productivity and water quality goals.
Soil health is critically linked to issues such as nutrient losses to surface water, climate change, erosion, and ultimately farm profitability. Moreover, the benefits of healthy soil are key in mitigating extreme wet and drought events.
As the human population grows, water from drinking and fishing to farming and industry is under increasing pressure making water supply on the global, national, regional, and local level imperative.
Collaborative watershed management that engages key stakeholders in identifying water quality impairments, developing water quality goals, and working collaboratively on strategies and actions to address the impairments, has been identified as a key solution in addressing non-point pollution of surface waters in the United States. Land-grant universities play a critical role in building capacity of watershed leaders and developing systems and tools to aid watershed management across scales.
With the increasing demand of agriculture, urban growth, and climate change on water quality, effective water management is critical. Before water can be effectively managed we need a solid foundational knowledge of water resources, natural and anthropogenic influences, changing and emerging threats to water, and how local water issues affect world water supply. Evidence suggests that many Americans and many youth lack these foundational components. With water quality and water related issues being a world-wide issue, education of our future leaders is vital.