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May 2016 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
A Post Card to the Midwest, Courtesy of the 2016 Death Valley Super Bloom

A good friend recently posted over 300 images of her hike through this spring's "super bloom" in Death Valley region of California and Nevada to the internet. Death Valley gets, on average, less than
Photo Credit: Julia Burton
2 inches of rainfall annually. In some years, the hottest desert on the world gets no rain.  But every 10 years or so, a September or October storm is followed by gentle, evenly-spaced rain events during the winter and early spring. Desert wildflower seeds are released from dormancy and have enough moisture to grow and set seed to ensure the generation of color and food for pollinators. The variety of shapes, sizes, and color of flowers was definitely worth 300 photos!

For us in the North Central Region, this is the time of year when water is typically most plentiful.  And times of plenty are the best times to talk about conservation! 

The lowest annual average rainfall in the North Central Region is in western Kansas -- around 13 inches.  Nearly a full foot of rain more than Death Valley.  That extra rain, when appropriately timed, allows sorghum, millet, oats, and other crops to grow in the driest parts of Kansas. And with proper agronomic practices, these crops can be grown for generations without depleting precious groundwater resources. K-State is a world leader in researching crops and agricultural production strategies that can ensure both sustainable food and water supplies.

While the North Central Region is generally water rich, there are areas of nearly every state where a combination of soil type and climate patterns requires those of us engaged in agriculture to seriously consider the longer-term sustainability of cropping and livestock systems.  The small, rooted inhabitants of Death Valley use a strategy that operates on decades, rather than single years. Their beauty in super bloom years reminds us that we can be successful for generations if we take the time to learn and adopt strategies that match the requirements of our soils and climate. 


Rebecca Power, Network Director

Photo Credit: Julia Burton

Call for photos! 

You see amazing things. Every day. We want to see what you see - whether it's people working hard for cleaner water, a new generation of water researchers or water stewards, or a beautiful sunset over your favorite lake. We want to see your originals . These images will be repurposed for future North Central Region Water Network newsletters, webinars, on the website, and other educational materials. We have created five categories but feel free to create your own. Submit up to 5 of and encourage your colleagues to submit theirs as well! 

Photographers often see what is invisible to the human eye, hidden, or taken for granted. Take us further, to what is beyond the surface.

Please submit in the following categories: 
  1. Recreational Water Use
  2. Water at Work
  3. Water at Risk
  4. Water Research and Extension
  5. The Beauty of Water 
Please fill in your info here and access instructions will be sent to you: Photo Upload Access


Want your water questions answered by colleagues? 

Use the NCRWN ListServes to get the CORRECT answers to your questions quickly. 
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Network Initiatives
Visit our Network Initiatives Page for more information on current and previous initiatives, and future funding opportunities. 

Stormwater Practices and Maintenance Core Course

Human activity on the landscape has drastically changed the natural hydrologic cycle by concentrating much of the output into surface water as excessive runoff. Some consequences of excessive runoff are flash flooding, loss of property and significant water quality degradation. Since the 1980s, a national effort called green infrastructure has focused on remedying the problem by providing a series of tools to minimize the impact of our developments by mimicking natural hydrology. Recently, there has been expanded and rapid growth in the number of publicly available stormwater educational programs for professionals and communities that focus on green infrastructure tools (referred to as best management practices). However, much of the growth is home based and addresses specific local needs and issues. Until now, a publicly available, uniform and comprehensive stormwater core curriculum has been missing. A collaborative group of stormwater educators have led the effort to develop a program to address this need.

Building the collaborations:
A network of collaborative group of stormwater educators from across the country was created to develop such educational program as described above. The group met regularly to identify the theme, specific topics, and the best delivery methods for the proposed curriculum. The collaborative also identified the specific topics (such as design of stormwater practices vs. their construction), the necessary level of knowledge, and the appropriate audience for the specific topic.

Pilot Test:   
A pilot test was conducted, June 2015.  Project partners were involved in compiling a list of potential individuals representing the identified targeted audience to participate in the pilot test.  The pilot testers were invited (email) to participate having been asked to take the course and complete a survey to record their experience and to share comments about the course.  Feedback was received from five pilot testers (N=5) and was  used to refine the course once more. The subsequent changes in the course were significant enough that it compelled us to conduct another set of pilot testers (N=6).  The current course reflects all the changes and the course has been well received by recent users.  

A formative evaluation of the curriculum will be required from the participants upon their completion of the curriculum prior to issuance of a certificate of completion. Participant attendance and progress will be monitored. Subsequent use of course materials for training at local offices or larger events will be tracked and evaluated to measure project impact.

Project Contact:
Shahram Missaghi, PhD
Extension Educator, University of Minnesota


Leadership Spotlight: Ohio State University

Each month we call attention to a significant state-led project and associated leadership team member from our Network. These spotlights demonstrate the diversity of ongoing water research and outreach projects in our region. Please contact your state's North Central Region Water Network Leadership Team  member for details on the projects in your area. 

Leadership Spotlight: Forging new internal partnerships at OSU to address harmful algal blooms in Ohio's privately owned and managed lakes.
By: Joe Bonnell
I'm going to use the opportunity of this month's Leadership Spotlight to highlight a new project at The Ohio State University that represents a new collaboration between OSU Extension and the Ohio Water Resources Center in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering.
In the past several years in Ohio and in some respects, globally, harmful algal blooms (HABs) have become more frequent and have garnered the attention of the popular media. In Ohio, the harmful algal blooms on Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Mary's (Ohio's largest inland lake) and on the Ohio River have made headline news and in 2014 national attention came to the HAB crisis when the City of Toledo was forced to issue a "do not drink" advisory when mycrocystin toxin from HABs were detected in the treated drinking water. While much of the attention has been focused on these high profile cases, there is also growing concern about eutrophication and HABs in the many thousands of smaller, privately owned and managed lakes and ponds (Ohio has approximately 50,000 lakes and small ponds) that Ohioan's enjoy for boating, fishing, and swimming during the summer months. In 2011, the Ohio Lake Management Society published their Citizen Lake Awareness and Monitoring (CLAM) results; based on average Secchi disk values from 27 lakes, 70% were eutrophic and 22% were hypereutrophic, suggesting these lakes may be at high risk for HABs.
While many manuals and handbooks are available to lake managers describing various methods for reducing nutrient enrichment and suppressing algal growth, the long-term success of these techniques is not known and many lake managers are not formally trained in lake management techniques and therefore may not be familiar with the range of management strategies available. Furthermore, there is a notable gap in information and educational programs for managers of privately owned and managed lakes.
In response to this perceived need, faculty and staff from OSU Extension in the School of Environment and Natural Resources and the Ohio Water Resources Center were awarded a grant from the Office of Outreach and Engagement to reach out to lake managers in Medina County to monitor lake conditions and address their educational needs through a series of workshops and publications on lake management techniques for reducing the risks of HABs. The collaborators chose Medina County because it has the largest concentration of medium-sized lakes in the state.
The project represents the multi-disciplinary, integrated research and extension work that the Land Grant Universities like Ohio State are so well positioned to undertake. Lake managers in Medina County will be surveyed to determine their baseline level of knowledge of lake management and monitoring techniques, current management practices, lake management issues, and level of interest in educational programs and materials related to HABs. Lake managers who are interested will then be invited to participate in a workshop to learn how to monitor for HABs, nutrient levels, and other indicators of eutrophication. A subset of these lake managers will be selected to conduct detailed sampling of their lakes. Samples will be analyzed by the Environmental Engineering laboratory. The Extension Program Director for Aquatic Ecosystems will work with the lake managers to develop management strategies based on monitoring results and monitoring results will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of various management techniques. Lessons learned from this program will be applied to developing a practical guide and series of extension fact sheets for lake managers and homeowner associations. Participating lake managers will be surveyed at the end of the project to evaluate learning outcomes and changes in management practices.
Anticipated outcomes of this program are increased knowledge of algal problems and sustainable lake management practices among lake managers and decreased use of chemicals applied to medium-sized lakes. If this pilot program in Medina County proves successful, the collaborators from OSU Extension and Ohio Water Resources Center continue their collaboration and expand the program to increase our understanding of the extent of HABs in Ohio's medium-sized lakes, to evaluate the effectiveness of lake management techniques and, ultimately, to reduce the health risks and economic impacts of harmful algal blooms around the state.
For more information about this project, contact Eugene Braig, Program Director for Aquatic Ecosystems at

Joe Bonnell, PhD, The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources
Joe Bonnell currently serves as Program Director for Watershed Management in the School of Environment and Natural Resources. He received his PhD in Natural Resources from The Ohio State University in 2001. His extension and research programs have focused on collaborative approaches to watershed management and fostering behavior change to address nonpoint source pollution, particularly in agricultural watersheds. Dr. Bonnell was a member of the team that developed the Social Indicators Planning and Evaluation System to improve the delivery and evaluation of education and outreach programs targeting nonpoint source pollution. He is also co-director of the Ohio Watershed Academy and Ohio Environmental Leaders Institute.

Joe Bonnell, PhD
Program Director, Watershed Management/The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources
210 Kottman Hall, 2021 Coffey Rd
Columbus, OH 43210
(614) 292-9383
The Current Webinar Series: 
June 15, 2016
2:00-3:00 pm CT

Extension Programs for Youth Environmental and STEM Education 

  • Brandon SchroederSea Grant Extension Educator, Michigan State University Extension: Place-based Education and Water Stewardship for Youth Audiences
  • Justin Hougham, Assistant Professor, Environmental Education Specialist, University Wisconsin- Extension: Water and STEM Education for Youth Audiences
View my videos on YouTube


College of Menominee Nation - Sustainable & Development Institute , learning from the Land (LFTL) National Workshop
June 7-9, 2016
Join us for this unique opportunity to collaborate with leaders from throughout the higher education community who share your commitment to supporting development of the next generation of tribal scientists and management professionals.  More info.

Partnership for Ag Resource Management - Managing Cover Crops for Water Quality and Cash Crop Success
June 14, 2016 @ 9:00 am CT
Cover crops are not a one size fits all or fixes all, but they can accomplish many goals if successfully managed. There are many species, mixes and characteristics to be considered when making your selections. Learn what different varieties of cover crops can do to help achieve your clients' goals and how to manage those choices. More info. 

Climate Change and Water for Agriculture Education for Extension Professionals Webinar Series
June 15, 2016 @ 1:00 pm CT
Participants will be empowered to use the new relationships and knowledge gained to improve programming in the water resource program area, particularly impacting the ability of the network to generate measurable economic, environmental, and social impacts in the short and long-term, with a focus on watershed planning and climate change and adaptation. More info.

Land Use and Management Practices to Enhance Water Quality Workshop
Sioux Falls, South Dakota - June 22-24, 2016
Bismarck, North Dakota - June 28-29, 2016
The workshop and curriculum will empower Extension Professionals and Educators to conduct programs and course work on nutrient and manure management and land use within riparian ecosystems, increasing the awareness of producers and students on the topic in the short term and resulting in changes in land management and water quality in the long term. More info. 

G-WOW "Hear the Water's Voice" 
July 18-21, 2016
Mark your calendar to attend the  "Hear the Water's Voice"  Climate Change Institute being held 
July 18-21 2016 , focusing on water and climate change. This professional development institute is designed for teachers and community educators interested in teaching students about climate change using culturally relevant resources. Training will be based at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center and surrounding Lake Superior areas. More info. 

Funding Opportunities
DNR Fund to help groups Monitor State's Resources (WI Citizen-Based Monitoring)
Deadline: June 6, 2016
Individuals, community and school groups, conservation organizations and local governments that enlist volunteers to gather critical information on Wisconsin plants, animals, water and other natural resources are invited to apply for up to $5,000 to help fund those monitoring activities. The Department of Natural Resources has released a Request for Proposals for the Citizen-based Monitoring Partnership Program and is accepting applications now. The request for proposals and application guidelines can be found on the  Citizen-based Monitoring Network  website. More info.

USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Water for Agriculture Challenge Area
Deadline: August 4, 2016
This AFRI Challenge Area addresses critical water resources issues such as drought, excess soil moisture, flooding, quality and others in an agricultural context. Funding will be used to develop management practices, technologies, and tools for farmers, ranchers, forest owners and managers, public decision makers, public and private managers, and citizens to improve water resource quantity and quality. The long-term goal of the AFRI Water for Agriculture Challenge Area is to tackle critical water issues by developing both regional systems for the sustainable use and reuse, flow and management of water, and at the watershed and farm scales, water issues focused on production and environmental sustainability efforts. Project types supported within this Challenge area are multi-function Integrated Research, Education, and/or Extension Projects and Food and Agricultural Enhancement (FASE) Grants. More info.

In Case You Missed it...
The Current Webinar 18:  Developing Capacity for Local Watershed Management
  • Anne Baird and Joe Bonnell, The Ohio State University,
    Professional Development Needs of Water Resource Managers: Core Competencies
  • Lois Wolfson, Michigan State University and Jane Frankenberger, Purdue University,
    Perspective from four Watershed Academy Programs on Training Water Resource Professionals
  • Ann Lewandowski, University of Minnesota,
    Professional Training Methods: The Role of Online Learning

Useful to Usable and The Sustainable Corn CAP: Climate Change and Agriculture Extension
The research and the educators were a part of two USDA-NIFA climate projects,   which were funded to increase Corn Belt agriculture's capacity to adapt to and to assist in mitigating the impacts of climate change. These lessons give us a deeper understanding  of the beliefs and knowledge of agricultural stakeholders at the intersection of climate and agriculture. They provide insights into farmers' readiness to learn about climate science and to engage in adaptive and mitigative agricultural management. View here.

EPA 2016 Workplan: Programmatic Response to Climate Change and Water
This Workplan describes the actions that the National Water Program is planning to take in 2016 to implement the National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change . View here.

Fields to Streams: Managing Water in Rural Landscapes Publication
"Fields to Streams: Managing Water in Rural Landscapes" is a new on-line and print publication from the University of Minnesota. It is designed to help conservation staff work with landowners to understand the science and practice of managing water in rural landscapes. The 100 page booklet uses extensive graphics and concise explanations about the water cycle and land management practices that can be used to reduce the rate of erosion and sediment loss from rural streams.

The online publication is available for free download from University of Minnesota Extension at   and the print version is available from the University of Minnesota Bookstore website  under Books, UM Extension Publications.

NCRWN Fact Sheet
Want to see what we have been up to in the North Central Region Water Network? Check out our new fact sheet for more details. 
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We work together to expand and enhance multi-state water outreach and research efforts across the North Central Region of the United States.

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