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


Scaling Up the Power of the Land Grant Mission


Water resource management happens at many scales - 

from farm or lawn to global. Land-grant universities have traditionally provided services predominantly at a local (county) and state scale, as well as contributed to regional, national and global problem-solving.  As human land and water management activities become more intensive and pervasive, cross-scale impacts emerge. Research and outreach activities that intentionally consider scale are necessary to promote positive impacts and mitigate negative ones.


As I wrote in my January 2015 Director's column, the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (Hypoxia Task Force) has been working together since 1997 to address both state nutrient management and the interstate challenge of reducing the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. While land-grant universities have been informing nutrient management decisions for decades and have been instrumental in the development of several state nutrient strategies, we recently formed a new team of researchers and extension educators from the 12 states along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to work in partnership with the Hypoxia Task Force and its members. The goal of the team (SERA-46), which includes several North Central Region states, is to "promote effective implementation of science-based approaches to nutrient management/ conservation that reduces nutrient losses to the environment." SERA-46 effectively "scales up" land-grant efforts to match the scale of a complex natural resource management problem.  


The team met for the second time on May 18-19 to finalize a list of shared land-grant and Hypoxia Task Force priorities. Priorities cover research and outreach needs that take into account environmental, social, and economic factors that contribute to nutrient loss from agricultural lands, state-level nutrient impairments, and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Example priorities include sharing the latest research on nutrient management and adoption of best practices; identifying common attributes and gaps across state nutrient strategies, highlighting opportunities for cross state information sharing and learning; developing social measures of impact for use in priority watersheds; and strengthening a network of watershed leaders (including those that are farmers) to increase the effectiveness of strategies for reducing nutrient losses from agricultural lands.


For updates you can visit the SERA-46 web page or contact Jason Hubbart or Rebecca Power.




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.

Web-Based Environmental Assessment Tool Expansion

Wisconsin Cooperative Extension and Michigan State University have independently developed web based environmental assessment tools designed to help local units of government and environmental groups gauge and improve the effectiveness of their natural resource management initiatives. These tools, Wisconsin Water Star and the Great Lakes Clean Communities Network's Ecological Scorecard, could gain wider adoption in the North Central Region if more stakeholders are aware they exist and understand how they can be utilized or adapted to work in each state.

This project will deliver a multi-state plan to help states in the NCR utilize the Ecological Score Care and adapt the Wisconsin Water Star program to support the water resource management needs of each state.

The first regional webinar for the tools took place on April 28, 21015. View webinar here!

Project Contacts:

Andrew Yencha
Extension Natural Resources Educator

University of Wisconsin-Extension 

(414) 256-4631


Jeremiah Asher
Director of Information Technology
Institute of Water Research, Michigan State University 

(517) 432-5586

Leadership Spotlight: University of Minnesota 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. 

Highlighting one project of the University of Minnesota Extension is a challenge because of the breadth and depth of work on water resource issues across Extension, the Water Resources Center, and various academic departments. While we have educators and researchers specifically dedicated to water issues, many others do important work on water resources. Because of this I will take the same path that several of my colleagues have taken in highlighting a few projects, with the intent of illustrating the range of work that we do at the University of Minnesota.

Northland NEMO

Northland NEMO is a strong partnership between University of Minnesota Extension and Sea Grant. NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) is a nationally recognized program for local elected and appointed decision makers and community leaders that provides educational and skill building programming that increases their knowledge about the connection of land use and management decisions to water quality and natural resources. One unique feature of this program is taking officials out on the water, such as Lake Superior, the St. Croix River, etc., a concept that was originally developed under a project funded years ago by the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service through the Great Lakes Region Water Program. The program has also developed a nationally recognized Watershed Game, that through an interactive approach helps officials and others better understand the links between land use decisions and water resources, best management practices, and the policies that can be helpful for water resources. Northland NEMO


New Rural Stream Resource

This collaboration of state agency and University outreach and Extension staff has resulted in an online handbook that will be a resource to rural landowners, managers, and conservation professionals to assist them in adopting land and water management practices that will moderate excessive stream-flows that are causing high levels of stream-bank, bluff and ravine erosion. Part I of the handbook describes the processes that formed Minnesota's landscapes and continue to form them, while Part II describes land and water management practices that can be combined to reduce stream degradation and improve water quality. This web-based handbook will be available late this summer at


Climate Adaptation Partnership

The Climate Adaptation Partnership (CAP) was formed at a time when Minnesota policy makers and others were focused on mitigation. CAP is a network of interested professionals from government (federal, state and local), academia, non-government organizations, consulting firms and citizens. CAP has a history of highlighting adaptation strategies and resources within Minnesota, through presentations and through a listserv with over 200 individuals. Current educational efforts are focused on an annual conference, which attracts approximately 250 participants from across the state and from various sectors of interest. Extension staff from various disciplines, including natural resources and agriculture, are key in maintaining this network. The annual conference has received excellent coverage on Minnesota Public Radio.


Agriculture and Water Resources

Minnesota, like other North Central region states, is challenged by the desire to produce agricultural outputs and food, along with protecting its water resources. Both contribute to the Minnesota economy yet their goals often result in conflicting principles. University of Minnesota Extension has a number of educational programs that are addressing these seemingly conflicting views, contributing to solutions in this space where the two come together. Research and outreach is ongoing on conservation drainage, best practices for manure management, irrigation (concerns about nitrates in the ground water) and policy, to name just a few. While not easy, University of Minnesota Extension expertise will continue to be important in addressing issues so that environment and agriculture can coexist sustainably.

University of Minnesota Extension

Faye Sleeper is Interim Director of the University's Water Resources Center. Faye has been at the University of Minnesota since 2007. She partners with University and extension faculty to bring the latest University research in water resources to state and local water resource professionals. Recently she co-led the development and implementation of the Watershed Specialist Training Program, oversaw the Conservation Reserve Program Readiness Midwestern region project, and managed the Agricultural Impacts on Water Quality project.


She serves as co-chair of the University's Stormwater Linkage Committee and coordinates the Climate Adaptation Partnership and associated conference planning committee. Ms. Sleeper represents University of Minnesota Extension on the Board of Water and Soil Resources and on the North Central Region Water Network. She collaborates with water specialists in other land grant universities to work on issues that are regional and national in nature.


Ms. Sleeper received her M.A. in geography from the University of Minnesota and her B.A. in Sociology and History from Grinnell College. Prior to her current position, she worked at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in several positions, leading the development of the early Total Maximum Daily Load program, managing the nonpoint source programs and wastewater treatment grants and compliance for municipalities. She led the MPCAs Russian Wastewater Treatment Project in cooperation with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Agency for International Development.

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 9: Midwest Cover Crops Council
June 17, 2015 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. CT
  • Dr. Dean Baas, Senior Research Associate, Michigan State University Extension: The Midwest Cover Crops Council -
    A Regional Collaboration That Works
  • Dr. Tom Kaspar, Plant Physiologist, USDA-ARS, National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment: Effect of Cover Crops on Nitrogen in Tile Drainage
  • Dr. Matt Ruark, Assistant Professor and Extension Soil Scientist, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Cover Crops After Fall Manure Application

         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!
 2015 AWRA Summer Specialty Conference: Climate Change Adaption
June 15-June 17, New Orleans, LA


It will be held in New Orleans (NOLA) the Crescent City, in Southern Louisiana, one of the areas in the United States most potentially impacted by climate change. The conference will provide a critical path toward informing climate adaptation decisions on the ground.

Designed to spark dialogue among water resource specialists, hydrologists, ecologists, meteorologists, engineers, planners, lawyers and others - this is a must-attend event if you are aiming to make a differenceMore info.


UCOWR/NIWR/CUAHSI 2015 Annual Conference: Water is Not for Gambling: Utilizing Science to Reduce Uncertainty

June 16-18, 2015 Green Valley Ranch Resort, Henderson, NV 


Welcome from UCOWR president, David Kreamer: Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) is an organization of universities, nonacademic institutions, and international affiliates leading in water resources education, research, and public service. UCOWR institutional members and delegates are at the forefront of water resources related research and education. In addition to our annual national conference, UCOWR publishes The Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education. 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 8:  Managing Agricultural Drainage Water
  • Jane Frankenberger, Professor Agricultural & Biological Engineering Purdue University: "Managing Water for Increased Resiliency of Drained Agricultural Landscapes"
  • Chris Hay, Assistant Professor and Extension Water Management Engineer in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at South Dakota State University:"Managed/Controlled Drainage for Production and Environment"
  • Richard Cooke, Associate Professor Department of Agricultural Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: "Incorporating Uncertainty into Bioreactor Design"

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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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