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December 2016 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
Can We Create A Clean Water Economy?

A new report from the Risky Business Project, founded by economic powerhouses Henry Paulson, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer takes a clear-eyed look at the at the economic risks of climate change and, more importantly, the economic opportunities of shifting to a clean energy economy. They conclude that there are both short- and long-term economic opportunities  for investors that also reduce the risk of negative climate change impacts.  Their research-driven bottom line: a clean energy economy is both desirable  and possible.

In some ways, we are facing the same risks and opportunities when it comes to providing clean and plentiful water supplies. We can continue to look solely at the costs of best practices for managing water, in agriculture or in urban water infrastructure. Or we can look at those costs as risk management investments that also reduce the drag on our economy resulting from wasted water, polluted drinking water (e.g. Toledo, Flint), and unsightly lakes and streams that reduce property values and tourism revenue.

In urbanized areas, USEPA estimates that we lose an estimated $2.6 billion annually in treated water that leaks out of damaged water mains. In both urban and rural areas, avoidable water contaminants like nutrients, lead, and toxins produced by blue-green algae are either adding costs to treatment, or damaging human and animal health.

Proactive clean water investments can and do fund local, family-sustaining jobs for engineers, agronomists, chemists, public health professionals, and entrepreneurs of all stripes. Innovations that prevent problems arguably provide more value than jobs created to clean up damage caused by short-sighted thinking and poor planning.

One of the hallmarks of American leadership in the world is our can-do attitude.  We can maintain a strong economic position in the world and provide the cleanest, most sustainable water supplies. In fact, I would argue that these two goals are mutually dependent.

So, as we leave 2016 behind and think ahead to a new year and an approaching new decade, I ask you to reflect.  Can we create a clean water economy? I say yes.

Are you up for the challenge?

If you would like to contribute ideas for the future of the North Central Region Water Network, feel free to send me a note at .


Rebecca Power, Network Director


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Network Initiatives

Visit our Network Initiative Page  for more information on current and previous initiatives, and future funding opportunities. 

Regional Soil Health Capacity Building


Many conventional farmers don't believe that improving soil health can improve their bottom line. Fewer still believe that changes they can make will improve the ability of their fields to mitigate climate variability or to protect water quality. Farmers who try a few practices (e.g. cover crops, no-till) often give up after the first few years, due to challenges in controlling the cover crop or managing  crop residue, or because of perceived yield losses/increased pest problems. Many first line  professionals, such as Extension educators, Soil & Water  Conservation District (SWCD) staff and Certified Crop Advisors (CCA), don't have the advanced knowledge, training, or tools to adequately assist these farmers. There is also minimal collaboration from these professionals across the region on addressing the problem and finding a beneficial solution on how to educate growers on soil health.

Short-Term Goals
  • Create a working group with representatives (field and specialist level) from across the region.
  • Develop an approach/methodology for a regional framework to address soil health implementation.
  • Identify and inventory existing training, trainers and resources, including 1890 and 1994 Land Grants in the region.
  • Identify and prioritize gaps/barriers in soil health knowledge.
  • Identify a primary gap/barrier and develop a publication to fill need-Possible example: State of knowledge of the economics of soil health practices.
  • Leverage an existing Extension Soil Health Conference to provide training to Extension staff in the region and build project momentum. Provide follow up webinars to share research and state level Extension approaches.
Long-Term Goals
  • Build capacity in each state's Land Grant systems to deliver soil health training, research and resources.
  • Lay groundwork to apply for grants (AFRI, GLRI, others) to address identified needs.
  • Collaborate on future efforts to address identified gaps/barriers.
  • Create a permanent, functioning group, based on the MCCC, that will allow LandGrant universities to share information, resources and research on soil health.
Intended Impacts

The project will create a North Central Soil Health Work Group with representatives from Land Grant Universities across the 12 state region. The work team members will participate in a soil health conference to improve their knowledge in soil health and develop a common body of knowledge and accepted science that will be used in developing the regional framework to address soil health education. This team will be the foundation for an ongoing collaborative multi state network that's goal is to increase the visibility and understanding of soil health for Extension educators, agency professionals, agronomists, Certified Crop Advisors and farmers in the North Central Region. The team will develop and deliver soil health education at field days, workshops, webinars and printed resources.

Kevin Erb,  Conservation Professional Development and Training Coordinator 
1150 S Bellevue Street
Green Bay, WI 54302


Leadership Spotlight: 

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. 

Youth Water Education - The Next Generation - Water Rocks!

Much like the series known as Star Trek, some concepts, themes, programmatic thrusts, and initiatives, seem to bubble to the surface as priorities every few years.  This seems to be the case with Water Rocks. 

Water Rocks! is one of the latest efforts to bring youth water education to the forefront again in a dynamic, enticing format.  Those who have worked on this issue over an extended period of time  will recognize major initiatives known as Project Wet, Project Wild (the aquatic module), in the 4-H vernacular Water Riches (Ridges to Rivers module), and more recently, the STEM curriculum.   Water Rocks incorporates high-energy activities and music in bringing new life to the fundamental concepts that made these other curricula successful.  A few brief testimonials are included in this article.

"The most striking part of the training is how much the materials were well thought out and had innovative ways of being presented. I have been involved with water festivals for many years and we have done similar hands-on lessons, however, the Water Rocks kit is the most professionally developed that I have seen. I have already used some activities in schools and as 4-H energizers in four counties in Southwest, Missouri.  I have ordered another complete Water Rocks kit for my region."  - Willa Williams, 4-H Youth Development Specialist, Branson, MO.
A delegation from Missouri was one of the teams that participated in the November 1-2 Water Rocks! training hosted at Iowa State University and funded through one of the NCRWN seed grants.  The delegation included personnel from the Missouri 4-H Center for Youth Development, county based 4-H personnel, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources personnel, and the Missouri Extension Water Quality program state office.  While on the drive home from Ames the Missouri team developed their implementation strategy while discussing earlier Missouri based curriculum such as Earth Link, and Streets to Streams.

"I will be sharing the curriculum and resources with our NW MO Regional Water Festival Teaching Team in December 2016 to begin planning how we can incorporate many of the lessons into our teaching stations for our spring 2017 programs.   The team leaders are excited to learn about the curriculum and how we can add the lessons to what we are already doing."  - Debra Davis, 4-H Youth Development Specialist, Plattsburg, MO.

The Water Rocks kits, including  videos, educational games and activities, music, instructions and other props, will  be housed centrally  at the state 4-H Center, making them available for loans statewide.   In the short term 4-H and other Extension Educators will deliver the curriculum.  In the long run the plan is to secure grant funding to train senior 4-H members, and /or collegiate interns to be "Water Ambassadors".  The Ambassadors will be trained to teach the materials to a wide variety of youth audiences.   The funding will be used to offset the Ambassadors expenses, replenish expended supplies, and offer stipend summer internships to college students.  The Ambassadors will travel the state presenting Water Rocks at 4-H camps, fairs, and other such venues.   Just maybe with this curriculum we are looking Back to the Future

"About a year prior to attending the Water Rocks! Summit at Iowa State, I was introduced to the Water Rocks! Website by our MU Extension state water quality specialist. Over the last year, I have spent several hours on the Water Rocks! website, watching the music videos and looking through the materials on the website. I was very impressed by the materials and how entertaining and fun the songs are.  I was excited when I learned about the Water Rocks! Summit and the opportunity to visit Iowa State to learn more about the program.  What struck me the most during the summit was the importance of music and movement to learning these science concepts. The Water Rocks! program has found unique ways to make learning about these concepts fun and memorable."   - Mary Culler, Our Missouri Waters, Watershed Coordinator, Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Dan Downing, University of Missouri

Dan has over twenty-eight years of service with University of Missouri Extension. Seventeen 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. Dan holds a B.S. in Agricultural Mechanization and an M.S. in Extension Education from University of Missouri-Columbia.

Dan Downing,  MU Extension,  Water Quality Associate
205 Ag. Eng.
Columbia, MO 65211


Ann Arbor, Michigan, January 4-6, 2017
The Northern Michigan Waterways Hazardous Material Spill Planning Committee coordinates an annual conference that addresses prevention and mitigation of hazardous material spills on Michigan's Great Lakes and its tributaries. The theme for the 2017 No-Spills Conference is "New and Innovative Technology for Spill Prevention & Response". More info.

New Partners for Smart Growth Conference
St. Louis, Missouri. February 2-4, 2017.
The nation's largest smart growth and sustainability event, the theme for the 2017 conference is "Practical Tools and Innovative Strategies for Creating Great Communities," underscoring a stronger emphasis on implementation tools and strategies, and new technologies that will help communities now. The schedule includes a dynamic mix of plenaries, breakouts, implementation workshops, focused training sessions, peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and coordinated networking activities. It will also feature exciting tours of local model projects in and around the greater St. Louis region. More info.

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Green Infrastructure Conference
Detroit, Michigan. May 31 - June 2, 2017.
Save the date  for the first ever Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Green Infrastructure Conference . This conference will draw up to 1,000 engineers, landscape architects, water quality professionals, government officials (local, state, provincial, and federal), developers, planners, academia, drain and road agencies, conservation and non-profit organizations, and interest groups from around the Great Lakes basin in Canada and the U.S.  This is the first conference to focus on using green infrastructure across the landscape with the primary goal of protecting the surface waters in the Great Lakes region. More info.
Funding Opportunities

North American Wetlands Conservation Act 2018 U.S. Standard Grants
The U.S. Standard Grants Program is a competitive, matching grants program that supports public-private partnerships carrying out projects in the United States that further the goals of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. These projects must involve only long-term protection, restoration, enhancement and/or establishment of wetlands and associated uplands habitats for the benefit of all wetlands-associated migratory birds. A 1:1 match is required. Research funding is ineligible.  Learn more.

Centers for Oceans and Human Health 3: Impacts of Climate Change on Oceans and Great Lakes (COHH3) (P01)
The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to invite applications for multi-component projects that will investigate the impact of climate change on emerging public health threats associated with marine and Great Lakes Basin environments. The focus of the program will be to support research on the exposures, toxicities and human health impacts that arise in these environments and how climate change is influencing these factors now and in the future. The FOA solicits applications that will achieve program goals through integrated, multidisciplinary scientific approaches and a community engagement component.  Learn more.

Competition for a Cooperative Institute in the Great Lakes
The NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research invites applications for the establishment of a Cooperative Institute (CI) in the Great Lakes to help complement NOAA's current and planned activities in the region in support of NOAA's 5-year Research Plan and the 20-year Research Vision. These documents both call for substantial improvement in NOAA's ability to understand, restore, protect, and manage ecosystems to maintain healthy, productive coastal and marine ecosystems that benefit society, and to communicate that information in ways that inform the public to act as stewards for those ecosystems. The CI will be established at a research institution not only having outstanding graduate degree programs in NOAA-related sciences, but also located within the Great Lakes region.  Learn more.
Coastal Program - Fish and Wildlife Service
The Coastal Program is a voluntary, incentive-based program that provides direct technical assistance and financial assistance in the form of cooperative agreements to coastal communities and landowners to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat on public and private lands. Coastal Program staff coordinate with project partners, stakeholders and other Service programs to identify geographic focus areas and develop habitat conservation priorities within these focus areas. Geographic focus areas are where the Coastal Program directs resources to conserve habitat for federal trust species. Learn more.

In Case You Missed it...

The Current  is a speed networking webinar series for professionals engaged in water-related extension, research, and conservation activities. The North Central Region Water Network and Extension Directors from all 12 North Central states are sponsoring this series to highlight the best water-related research and Extension programming in the region. Webinars will run for 60 minutes, with three 10-minute project snapshots and 30 minutes of QA/peer-to-peer interaction.

T he Current Webinar 23:  Land Use of Riparian Ecosystems in the Northern Great Plains: Resources for Extension and Adult Education
  • Mary Berg, North Dakota State University; Presentation Title:  Land Use of Riparian Ecosystems in the Northern Great Plains: Empowering our Educators.
  • Melissa Wuellner, South Dakota State University; Presentation Title: The Basics of Land Use Change and Riparian Management for Extension Professionals
  • Leslie Johnson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Presentation Title:  Nutrient and Manure Management: Activities to Enhance the Learning Experience
 Watch here


2017 Conservation Awards - Wisconsin Land + Water
Nominations for the Wisconsin Land + Water Conservation Association 2017 Conservation Awards are open. Awards include Conservation Farmer of the Year, Outstanding Conservation Employee, Outstanding Supervisor, Conservation Steward, and Special Recognition/Friend of Conservation.  Entries should be submitted before December 31 to WI Land+Water, 131 West Wilson Street, Suite 601, Madison, WI 53703 or emailed to The WI Land+Water Professional Improvement Committee will review submittals and announce the winners by January 25, 2017.  More info.


Climate Change, Hydrology, and Fish Morphology
In this recently published study, biologists use the relationship between genetic traits and specific species habitat to predict species ability to genetically adapt to future habitats under climate change. Specifically, the authors examined this method of evaluating climate change impact on biodiversity using the relationship between fish body shape and stream flow as a case study. Results show some fish populations successfully altering their body shape at the rate that their habitat will change, while others were categorized as vulnerable species. View here.

Platte River Basin Timelapse
Imagine if you could follow a drop of water on a 900-mile journey downstream from mountains to plains. Imagine you could listen to its myriad stories as it makes its way from an alpine trout stream to a prairie river full of cranes, or from a staircase of massive dams and reservoirs to a six-inch pipe that waters a farmer's crop field.   What if we could use the tremendous power of photography and storytelling to see a watershed in motion? What if we could leverage those images to dig deeper and grow understanding about our water resources, and build community throughout a watershed? What if this could be used as a template to start a conversation and look at other watersheds around the world? The team behind the Platte River Basin Timelapse seeks to do exactly that: View here. 

Purdue Receives Grant to Study Soil Health/Water Quality Link
Purdue's Department of Agronomy has received a $225,000 grant for one of the first large-scale attempts to directly link in-field soil health parameters with intensive edge-of-field water quality monitoring across the Great Lakes basin.  "The boundary between soil and edge-of-field water is challenging but an important area of work. This effort is designed to understand how the soil's health impacts the retention or release of major plant nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus," said Ron Turco, professor of agronomy. View here.

California Drought is a U.S. Problem
If what's happening in California doesn't worry you, it should, says Matt Marschall, senior vice president for CBRE, Inc., a real estate firm in San Diego. He says the state's water issues are germane to the rest of the country.  Other individuals and organizations hold similar views. In April 2015 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that "40 out of 50 states have at least one region that's expected to face some kind of water shortage in the next 10 years." View here.

2017 Soil Health Conference: Building Soil Health for Healthy Environment and Farm Profitability
The 2017 Soil Health Conference marks the second year for this event. The conference will be a full two days with a wide range of presentations and formats that address the basic and practical aspects of soil health. The agenda includes speakers from academia, farmers, USDA, non-profit, and industry views concerning soil health understanding, challenges, and potential management practices. There will be also be a poster session highlighting current soil health research efforts.  View here. 

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