April  2015 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update


Planetary Boundaries: Considerations for Nitrogen and Phosphorus Management

As I write this, the smell of fresh soil is wafting through my window. The smell comes in part from freshly tilled farm fields and in part from my freshly turned garden. In this, the International Year of Soils, we take time to learn more about how critical healthy soil is to growing everything we eat and keeping our water fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.


In addition to learning (re-learning, really) to care for our soil, we are also learning more every day about how to effectively manage two other important inputs to food, fiber, and renewable fuel production - nitrogen and phosphorus. A recent article in Science provides some valuable perspective during this month of spring fever and Earth Day.


The article, by Steffen et al, is titled Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. The authors establish science-based global and regional "safe operating spaces" for nine parameters, including the biogeochemical flows of N and P. They conclude that we have entered a "high risk" zone for both elements and suggest that a greater focus on flows might offer more successful solutions to N and P management over time (e.g. a greater emphasis on reducing excess P build-up in soils). The article is great food for thought for researchers, educators and resource managers. We invite you to engage in a discussion about any implications for our work. You can post ideas and comments on our blog.




Rebecca Power, Network Director

Network Initiatives
For the next several months we will take a closer look at the 2014 & 2015 initiatives. For more information on these, visit our  Network Initiatives Page.

Capacity Building Workshop for Irrigation Professionals in the North Central Region

While irrigation is a vital part of our nation's agricultural system, it has often been linked to declining aquifer levels, increased concentrations of nitrates in drinking water, and soil quality problems. Reliance in irrigation varies greatly across the NCRWN. In western states like Kansas and Nebraska, irrigation is a usually a function of climate. Growing season precipitation is simply not enough to meet the seasonal consumptive water demands of the major agronomic crops commonly grown. 

In more northern and eastern states, there may be enough water for the crops across the growing season, but coarse textured soils or temporal rainfall variability may leave actively growing crops short of water in the soil profile. There has never previously been a multi-state effort in the North Central region to provide education and outreach to extension staff and irrigation professionals that addresses the water quality and quantity issues that are related to irrigation. There is also an identified need to train new irrigation professionals, as there is a looming wave of faculty and professionals that are going to retire in the near future. The loss of this expertise in the North Central region is at odds with the fact that irrigation continues to expand in the northern and eastern states in the North Central region. Training new faculty and irrigation professionals is a critical need in the region.

Intended Impacts

  • Develop and secure funding for a regional research, education and extension projects that will help build a foundation for regional extension programming through The USDA NIFA-AFRI Water for Ag Challenge Area. 
  • Give technical assistance providers consistent irrigation training and updates. 
  • Close the knowledge gaps about irrigation water management, and assure that future generations have access to abundant, high quality groundwater.
For more information visit the project page  here or contact  Joshua Stamper,  Extension Irrigation Specialist, University of Minnesota, (612) 626-4986.
Leadership Spotlight: University of Missouri Extension
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. 

Testing the Waters: Evolution of an Extension Water Quality Program

By: Dan Downing


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.

Today 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 com ments here  or by contacting the Missouri Extension Water Quality Program at 205 Ag, Engineering, Columbia, MO 65211, (573) 882-0085


Daniel Downing
University of Missouri Extension Water Quality

Dan Downing has more than 28 years of service with University of Missouri Extension. 17 years of that time have been spent serving in a statewide position with The University of Missouri Extension Water Quality Program. This is a broad-based program disseminating a wide variety of information on issues relating to water. Dan's programming efforts including: private/public drinking water issues, pesticide, nutrient, bacteria and sediment reduction programming, watershed planning/management, youth water programming, and a host of other water and environmentally related programs. He fills the role of catalyst, encouraging the establishment of locally driven and lead watershed management groups throughout the state. He also provides training and technical support for these groups. Dan holds a B.S. in Agricultural Mechanization and an M.S. in Extension Education from University of Missouri-Columbia.
The Current Webinar Series
Our  w ebinar series is your connection to our Network and water outreach, research and collaboration efforts across the North Central Region. Designed for busy working professionals like yourself, the webinars are only an hour and won't take up much space on your calendar. We hope you will join the conversation. 

Please visit our webinar overview page for details on upcoming and past webinars. 

The Current Webinar 8: Managing Agricultural Drainage Water
May 13, 2015 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.
  • Jane Frankenberger,  Professor Agricultural & Biological Engineering Purdue University: 
    "Managing Water for Increased Resiliency of Drained Agricultural Landscapes"
  • Chris Hay, Assistant Professor South Dakota State University: 
    "Drainage Water Management and Multi-state Training Collaboration for Drainage Education"
  • Richard Cooke, Associate Professor Department of Agricultural Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: "Incorporating Uncertainty into Bioreactor Design" 

         Register here! 

Past Webinars:
If you happened to miss one of our webinars in 2014 or 2015, be sure to visit our webinar archive page to get caught up on the latest from our Network. You can also view these by going directly to our NEW NCRWN Youtube Page.   Thank you!
Lake Huron Restoration Regional Meetings
May 12, May 14, May 27 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Port Huron, Alpena, Sault Saint Marie
Please join colleagues in your region to discuss restoration progress in the U.S. Lake Huron basin and hear about plans to develop the Lake Huron Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) under the newly updated U.S-Canadian Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The meeting will be an opportunity for you to report out on your organization's restoration activities over the last five years, share successes and lessons learned, discuss challenges, and help inform the development of the binational Lake Huron LAMP. These one-day public gatherings will be of special interest to those implementing U.S. Lake Huron restoration projects, those supporting Lake Huron restoration activities, as well as local agencies and organizations interested in incorporating restoration projects into their work.  More info.


Spring 2015 Hypoxia Task Force Public Meeting
May 20, 1:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m., Columbus, Ohio
Participants have the option to attend the meeting in person or via a webcast. If you opt to attend via webcast, instructions for how to access the webcast will be sent to you by email after you register. To attend in person, please register by May 14, 2015. Registration to attend via webcast will be open through the date of the meeting (May 20, 2015).

Society for Freshwater Science 2015 Annual Meeting
May 17-21, Milwaukee, WI
As one of the world's leading groups of freshwater scientists, the Society for Freshwater Science has chosen "Our Freshwater Futures" as the theme for its 2015 annual meeting in Milwaukee. Plenary sessions will feature leading freshwater scientists giving their insights into the problems that freshwater ecosystems and human societies are facing, and every special session will include a talk that envisions future directions for the field covered by the special session. We invite you to join us on the shores of Lake Michigan as SFS considers the future of the world's fresh waters. More info.
Funding Opportunities

McKnight Foundation - Mississippi River Program

Deadlines: August 1 for November consideration, November 1 for February consideration

The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. Through grant making, collaboration, and encouragement of strategic policy reform, we use our resources to attend, unite, and empower those we serve.  More info

In Case You Missed it...
The Current Webinar 7:  Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit
Kristine Tidgren, Staff Attorney for Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, will offer a legal analysis of issues surrounding the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit and discuss implications for agriculture and water resource management.

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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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