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January 2017 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
Water as an Economic Good

In today's world, communication in the public sphere is not for the faint of heart.  Communicating about how we value and manage water is no different. One of the practices that critical thinkers and effective communicators use is to first offer some common definitions.
Economists have defined four potential categories for all "goods" in our economic system. Private goods can be owned and consumed by one person without affecting others.  A bottle of water (or soda, or beer) purchased at a grocery or convenience store falls into this category. 
Club goods are those goods which a person can pay a set "entry" fee and then have unlimited access to the good. Unlimited use of a club good by one person does not compromise the use of the good by another. Think Netflix or cable television. When it comes to water, we sometimes treat our urban water utilities like a club system; however, unlimited use of water by enough people will eventually compromise its availability for others.
Public goods are those that can be broadly accessed without diminishing the availability for another user - like watching a beautiful lakeside sunset. In the eastern part of our region, where water is most plentiful, we often describe water as a public good.  However, what we mean by public good is often related to a property right owned by the public or a constitutional human right water rather than public good in the economic sense.
Common-pool resources, such as groundwater, rivers, and wild fish stocks, can be broadly accessed.  However, there is the capacity to limit use through societal rules (social norms or regulation).  Society may choose to impose limits to use because common-pool resources can be depleted.  For example, farmers that irrigate crops may want certainty that the water will be affordably available for their children to continue to farm. Or lakeshore property owners may want to protect water quality so that their property holds its value.
So why do these categories matter? Assigning a water management decision to the right economic category will influence whether that water is managed sustainably or unsustainably. As competition for finite water resources continues to increase, economists can help us develop rules that work for the benefit of all water users. Note that rules can be in the form of government regulation and incentives, best practices set by professional organizations, or social norms developed and kept current by local communities. Regardless of how they are set and enforced, well-developed rules ensure that water is available and safe for all water users.

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. 

Climate Change and Water for Agriculture Education for Extension Professionals: A Webinar Series


This project addresses the NCRWN goals of building capacity of universities to address multi-state water-related issues, while targeting the focus area of climate change and adaptation.

Arbuckle et al. (2013a, 2013b) show that about two-thirds of farmers in the U.S. Corn Belt believe that climate change is occurring, due to either human or natural causes, or both. Only 40 percent of those believe human causes can be attributed. The National Climate Assessment (NCA, 2014) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2014) both detail strong agreement among climatologists and high likelihood of human-caused climate change globally, which is not consistent with farmer beliefs.

Most Extension and ag advisors do not have an educational background in meteorology or climatology, as they are more likely to hold degrees in agronomy, soil science, animal science, or other related fields. This may be the root of their discomfort with the topic, as Wilke et al. (in press) found in their surveys of ag advisors. In general, Extension and ag advisors are similar in their climate change beliefs as the producers they serve, which is more skeptical than the scientific consensus among climatologists.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies have been studying climate change and its impacts on all sectors of the economy. Many federal agencies have established regional centers or groups to address concerns and issues at the local or regional scale. The USDA's Regional Climate Hubs are among those groups, with a particular focus on utilizing Extension to provide knowledge and advice to agricultural producers across the Nation. Three USDA Regional Climate Hubs are active in the NCRWN states, and they will be strong partners in this effort. For these reasons, it is increasingly important that Extension professionals become familiar and comfortable with climate science as it pertains to agricultural production.


The first issue that will be addressed with this project will be to increase the understanding of climate science. Then climate change projections and impacts to the agricultural sector in the NC region will be presented and discussed. The target audience is Extension professionals who work with agricultural systems in the NC region, and will highlight field crops and grazing and livestock systems.

Water management in agricultural systems in the NC region will be the focus of this project. Farmers and producers are already adapting to short-term weather, climate and water extremes (Haigh, 2015; Morton, 2015), but the goal here is to encourage producers to consider longer term risk management in light of projected climate change impacts. The NCA (2014) outlined several water-related risks in the Great Plains and Midwest regions related to water, for example: increasing extreme precipitation events and flooding; reduced water quality; increase in erosion; decline in water quality in the Great Lakes; increase in population leading to increase in demand for water; and more intense droughts in the Great Plains. Temperatures are warming overall, but there are seasonal and sub-regional geographic differences to account for. All of these (and more) are factors that Extension staff can understand, but perhaps never had the opportunity to learn.

In the Sustainable Corn CAP and Grazing CAP projects funded by USDA NIFA, some adaptation and mitigation practices in corn-based cropping systems and grazing systems have been considered for research, as well as methods for educating or training our peers in Extension. Recommendations will be forthcoming as far as best management practices for adapting to or mitigating impacts due to a changing climate in these agricultural systems, which include water management for quality and quantity. Our proposed project is based in part by research and Extension involvement in these large projects, and building off of preliminary recommendations from the Corn CAP in particular.

Building off of lessons learned and collaborations with the Corn CAP, Grazing CAP and the USDA Regional Climate Hubs, webinars will be offered to address the following topics:
  • What is weather? What is climate? Historical climate trends in the NC region, historical extremes.
  • Projected future climate trends and extremes in the NC region. Impacts on agricultural systems, water management.
  • Economics of water management practices that can adapt to or mitigate climate change impacts, e.g. tile drainage, bioreactors, sub-irrigation, irrigation. Role of precision agriculture, climate "big" data, private agriculture/climate data providers (e.g. Climate Corporation, Encirca products).
  • Livestock and grazing, drought management and planning, livestock water supply, risk management (e.g., Pasture, Range, Forage-Rainfall Index Insurance).
  • Using watershed groups as learning communities, the Corn CAP model for Extension engagement on the topic of climate change, climate change communication with ag audiences (Wilke, in press)
Intended Impacts

As a result of the webinar series, Extension professionals and partners will be more aware of existing water resources and how they relate to weather and climate in North Central region. Additionally, the 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."

During each webinar session, there will be a brief survey to assess the value of the information presented, what the attendees learned, and likelihood of the attendees to use the information they learned in their communities. At the conclusion of the webinar series, there will be an evaluation done to assess the entire program as a whole. This final evaluation will be distributed by email and completed online.

The series of webinars then enables Extension personnel and partners in the NC region to build their individual intellectual capacity, recognize peers and specialists that can further their own professional development or community development goals, and adopt strategies for more impactful programming in their area. Short and medium term surveys will assess these metrics. The metrics will be designed to show the precise NCRWN goal of generating "measurable economic, environmental, and social impacts in the short and long-term, with a focus on watershed planning and climate change and adaptation."

Laura Edwards
SDSU Extension, Extension Climate Field Specialist


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. 

Midwest Cover Crops Council Update

 Thanks to grant funding from the Walton Family Foundation, the  Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) has been able to advance  on several projects during the last few months. In July of 2016 the  MCCC hired program manager Anna Morrow. Anna comes from a  small Indiana farm with an Extension background. Over the past  several months, several updates to the Cover Crop Decision Tool  have been undertaken. Kansas and Missouri have been added to  the tool. The Indiana field crops tool is in the process of being updated and an Indiana vegetable tool is also being created. Nebraska has just begun work to create their tool as well. The MCCC is looking forward to updating more state decision tools in the future to keep all of our cover crop information current, as well as adding more features to benefit farmers.

The MCCC has introduced a new website design, making it easier for users to find resources and access the site on mobile technology. The MCCC website contains Extension publications as well as links, media and resources providing information on how to select, plant and maintain cover crops. The goal of the updated site is to organize resources more consistently and enhance search capabilities to help users find information more quickly. Additionally, the new website is mobile responsive, meaning it will switch to a mobile-friendly design when viewed on a phone or tablet. Popular features such as the interactive cover crop selection tools are still included on the new website. Our top priority is to make information more accessible and user-friendly.

Every year the Midwest Cover Crops Council has an annual business meeting followed by a one day conference for farmers, researchers, educators, agency personnel, NGOs and agribusiness to learn from one another about the latest information in successful cover cropping. The meeting and conference rotates around the Midwest and returns to Michigan for the first time since 2006 and is being hosted by Michigan State University Extension. The theme of this year's conference is Making Cover Crops Work - Experiences from the Field. In addition to joint sessions on cover crop termination and interseeding of cover crops, three concurrent sessions on cover crop use in field crop, vegetable crop and forage/grazing systems will feature teams of a researcher or educator and farmer(s) presenting their experiences from the field. CCA and RUP credits are pending. Posters will be displayed detailing cover crop information from around the region. Exhibitors providing cover crop and other ag related services will be present. The MCCC conference will be held on March 15, 2017 at the Crowne Plaza in Grand Rapids, MI. The MCCC business meeting will precede the conference on March 14. Early registration for the conference is $85 per person and pre-registration is required, the registration price will increase after January 31st. Event details are available on our website at


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.

EPA's Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Informational Webinars
February 9 @ 2:00-3:30pm ET & March 7 @ 1:00-2:30 p.m. ET
EPA's WIFIA program will host two webinars for prospective borrowers that will explain the process for submitting and evaluating WIFIA letters of interest. To access the webinars, register in advance for either the  February 9  or  March 7  webinar. More info.

Wetland Science Conference
Stevens Point, WI. February 28 - March 2, 2017
The annual Wetland Science Conference is a program of  Wisconsin Wetlands Association . The two-day conference includes a keynote address, organized symposia, topical oral sessions, a poster session, working groups, a banquet, and field trips to area wetlands.  More info.

The Great Lakes: Moving Michigan Forward
East Lansing, MI. March 7, 2017
The Great Lakes: Moving Michigan Forward, incorporates ideas generated by Michigan State University's Water Moves, a university-wide initiative fostering scientific innovation and cultural and artistic expression inspired by water. The conference is co-sponsored by Michigan State University's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Institute of Water Research; Michigan Sea Grant Extension, and the Office of the Great Lakes, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. More info.

Funding and Other Opportunities

2017 USDA ThinkWater Fellowship
ThinkWater is a systems thinking initiative funded by the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to improve public understanding,  scholarly research, and education and outreach around critical water issues. The 2017 USDA ThinkWater Fellowship is designed to develop the systems thinking capacity of professionals in water education, extension, and outreach from strategic states, regions, and American Indian  nations across the country. Fellows will be expected to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to integrate systems thinking into their water education, extension and outreach work. Fellows will receive focused training and professional development over the course of several months that will enable them to lead systems thinking education and outreach over the long term. The 3rd annual Cornell Systems Thinking Symposium will provide a venue for Fellows to present their statewide strategy and early insights about implementation in their state. Applications are due February 17, 2017.  Apply here.

NCRWN Call for Seed Funding Proposals
The first call is for Impact 2020 preproposals that will ultimately result in the selection of two Network "flagship initiatives" funded through December 2019.  Successful preproposal teams will be expected to participate in a 1 1/2 day Design Meeting to 1) build systems thinking and initiative design skills and 2) refine pre proposals.  The second call is for Capacity Building Mini Grant full proposals. This call will result in up to four year-long mini grants for 2017.   Both Impact 2020 pre proposals and Capacity Building Mini Grant full proposals are due March 14, 2017. Learn more.

Coastal Resilience Grants Program
NOAA has developed the Coastal Resilience Grants Program to strengthen our economy and provide sustainable and lasting benefits.   The NOAA Coastal Resilience Grants Program will support two categories of activities: strengthening coastal communities and habitat restoration.  Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, regional organizations, private entities, and local, state, and tribal governments. Typical award amounts will range from $250,000 to $1 million for projects lasting up to three years.  Learn more.

Applications Requested for Innovative Partner Projects
On Jan. 12, 2017, NRCS invited potential conservation partners to submit project applications for fiscal year (FY) 2018 federal funding through RCPP.  Project pre-applications are due on or before April 21, 2017. Through this fourth RCPP Announcement for Program Funding (APF), NRCS will award up to $252 million dollars to locally driven, public-private partnerships that improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.  Applicants must match or exceed the federal award with private or local funds. Learn more.

Aquatic Invasive Species Grants to Great Lakes States Fiscal Year 2017 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
Under FY17 appropriations to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service anticipates providing grants to support implementation of Great Lakes State Aquatic Invasive Nuisance Species Management Plans, and support for the implementation of a Great Lakes Interstate Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan. Two-year grant awards will be used by states for activities that directly relate to the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and Great Lakes Basin.  Learn more.

14th Annual P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - as part of its People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Award Program - is seeking applications proposing to research, develop, and design solutions to real world challenges involving sustainability. The P3 competition highlights the use of scientific principles in creating innovative projects focused on sustainability. The P3 Award Program was developed to foster progress toward sustainability by achieving the mutual goals of improved quality of life, economic prosperity and protection of the planet-people, prosperity, and the planet-the three pillars of sustainability. The EPA offers the P3 competition in order to respond to the technical needs of the world while moving towards the goal of sustainability. 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.

Upcoming: The Current Webinar 25: Communicating Conservation
February 15, 2017, 2:00-3:00 CT
  • Michael Dahlstrom, Iowa State University, Effective Communication through Telling Stories
  • Kristin Runge, UW-Extension: Muddying the Water: How Frames Affects Our Perceptions of Science Issues

Past: The Current Webinar 24: Aquatic Invasive Species
January 18, 2017, 2:00-3:00 CT
  • Tim Cambell, aquatic invasive species outreach specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Extension, UW Sea Grant, and the Wisconsin DNR
  • Paul Skawinski and Erin McFarlane, University of Wisconsin-Extension:  Wisconsin's Citizen Monitoring program for aquatic invasive species, and Clean Boats, Clean Waters
  • Jo Latimore, Michigan State University:  Michigan's Citizen Monitoring program for aquatic invasive species 
  • Eleanor Burkett, University of Minnesota Extension:  Minnesota's NEW AIS Detector Program


NOAA Water Initiative 
NOAA released the "NOAA Water Initiative - Vision and Five Year Plan." A plan designed to give people and governments better access to the water information they need for their unique circumstances, so that they may take appropriate actions to address water-related risks and manage their water resources more efficiently and effectively. View here.

Lead Levels in Flint, Michigan, Water Fall Below Federal Limit
Flint's water system no longer has levels of lead exceeding the federal limit, a key finding that Michigan state environmental officials said is good news for a city whose 100,000 residents have been grappling with the man-made water crisis.  The 90th percentile of lead concentrations in Flint was 12 parts per billion from July through December - below the "action level" of 15 ppb, according to a letter from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to Flint's mayor. It was 20 ppb in the prior six-month period. View here.

Aquatic Invasive Species Thrives in Winter
When winter freezes Michigan inland lakes, the threat of the spread of aquatic invasive species does not go away. Boats were drawn out of the water, cleaned and stored for winter.  Docks that could be pulled ashore were, but then out comes the ice fishing gear. Shanties are slid onto the ice, holes are augured and a new season of sport begins and with it the spread of species like Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, and Vial hemorrhagic septicemia. View here.

Experts Seek Ways to Protect Environment from Rising Road Salt Runoff
Rock salt is everywhere in the Midwest during winter, spread as a remedy for snowy and icy highways, city streets, parking lots and sidewalks.  But sodium chloride's safety benefits can obscure what scientists say are widespread and troubling environmental costs.  After melting snow and ice, sodium chloride drains into sewers and washes into rivers. Once in the water, researchers say it chokes aquatic life and changes the composition of the region's streams and lakes.  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. 

Learn more about NCRWN

NCRWN Fact Sheet
Want to see what we have been up to in the North Central Region Water Network? Check out our fact sheet for more details. 

Our Mission:

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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