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July 2016 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
Garbage and Sewage Threatening the 2016 Rio Olympics

Even if you're not a fanatical follower of the Olympics, news about Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay has probably crossed your screen.  Sailing, canoeing, rowing, marathon swimming, and triathlon events are all scheduled to take place in these waters in August. Waters that, despite over $1 billion in international investment for wastewater treatment, are still filled with garbage and raw sewage. [1]
Lest you think we are beyond that in the United States, in Great Lakes States alone, we had over 1400 untreated sewer overflow events in 2014 (Table 1) [2]. Those events resulted in 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage entering into our Great Lakes (Table 2). That's enough to fill over 33,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Table 1. Reported untreated Combined Sewage Overflow events by state in 2014 based on available data. Courtesy of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Wastewater Management.
Table 2. Reported untreated Combined Sewage Overflow volume by state in 2014 based on available data. Source: US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Wastewater Management.
Another commonality we have with Rio is that we can easily forget the gifts that our lakes and streams can provide. In a New York Times Magazine article by John Branch, a Rio resident was quoted: "The children don't know it as a river. They know it as a sewage trench." [3] In Madison, Wisconsin where I live, there are too many days that children cannot swim in local lakes because of unsafe levels of bacteria or harmful algal blooms.
We have many examples in the Midwest where communities can thrive economically and still maintain lakes and streams that are fishable and swimmable. Lower Twin and Ryan Lakes in the Minneapolis metropolitan area are examples of water bodies that were compromised by stormwater pollution, but are now meeting designated uses. The West Branch of the Sugar River in Dane County, Wisconsin is an example of a water body that was compromised agricultural practices in the watershed. Farmers worked with a diversity of community partners to restore the river and it's prized fishery.
The difference between Maumee Bay, Grand Traverse Bay, or Chequamegon Bay in the Midwestern United States and Guanabara Bay in Rio is our collective will to have both clean water and healthy economies.  We have been successful before and we can be again. Let's not settle.

[1] Biller, D and M. Smith. "Up Guanabara Bay Before the Olympics." July 28, 2016. Bloomberg. Accessed July 28, 2016. 
[2] US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Wastewater Management. 2016. Report to Congress: Combined Sewer Overflows to the Great Lakes Basin . EPA 833-R-16-006.
[3] Branch J. "Who Is Polluting Rio's Bay?" July 27, 2016. New York Times. Accessed July 28, 2016. 

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. 
Recently we selected our seed funded initiatives for the fourth round of funding.  Congratulations to our recipients and thank you for your applications!
  • Project Director: Charles Barden, Kansas State University,


Leadership Spotlight: Kansas 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. 

MDI (Mobile Drip Irrigation) Projects at Kansas State University and Farm Demonstration Sites
Danny H. Rogers, Isaya Kisekka, Jonathan Aguilar:  KSRE Agricultural Engineers, Irrigation
MDI is the adaptation of microirrigation drip lines for use with the center pivot platform to move the lines through a field to distribute irrigation water.  While the concept of MDI has been around for a while, several new innovations in the design of the drip lines and the method of attachment to the center pivot have renewed interest in the technology.  MDI initially was targeted to small grain crops grown on field with limited irrigation capacity but the potential improvement in irrigation efficiency and crop water productivity for summer grown crops, like corn, resulted in irrigation producers trying MDI and wanting research conducted to evaluate its irrigation potential and development of management procedures. 
A research project at the Southwest Research and Extension Center in Garden City was established in 2015 and continues with a comparison of corn production under MDI and in-canopy spray nozzles. In this study, two levels of irrigation capacity are used, one with an irrigation capacity that should meet crop water needs for most years, and one with a low irrigation capacity, meaning the crop will often experience some yield limiting water stress each year. In 2016, three additional sites were established on commercial farms in the area. Two are located in the Garden City area and one further east, near Larned. These sites compliment the SWREC study and also include the use of other sensor and management technologies to compare, evaluate and customize the use of these various methods to improve irrigation productivity and water conservation. 
The Larned site especially has an emphasis on water conservation. The site is located in the rolling sand hills of SC Kansas in the Big Bend Prairie aquifer. While much of this aquifer has relatively stable water levels, some localized areas have decline issues. Since the area has sandy soils that have less soil water storage capability of the silt loam soils of western Kansas, the irrigation systems must have irrigation capacity near crop water use rates. Therefore if irrigation efficiency can be improved, then the areas of decline might be able to be mitigated and allow long term sustainability. 
This site features a side by side comparison of MDI and in-canopy spray systems as three spans of the system were split between the two nozzle package options. MDI requires the crop to be planted in circular rows, which could also be a potential advantage for in-canopy spray nozzles.  So in addition to the replicated study within the MDI/spray field, an adjacent pivot field, equipped with the in-canopy spray nozzles and managed to duplicate the MDI/spray field as closely as possible has been established also for a non-replicated comparison of circular row planting and straight row planting yields. Both field have an array of soil water sensors and plot water meters to aid the evaluation of systems. 
The three demonstration field sites were established through the efforts of individuals and private organizations, industry and state agency efforts; the latter as part of the State 50 year water vision plan implementation as irrigation technology demonstration farms. 
Dan Devlin, Kansas State University Research and Extension
Dr. Devlin is the Director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment and the Kansas Water Resources Institute and, also, a Professor of Agronomy. His responsibilities include coordinating and enhancing research, extension, and teaching initiatives pertaining to new and emerging environmental issues from an agricultural perspective. His goals include fostering holistic, interdisciplinary research and education required to solve agriculturally related environmental problems; providing for understanding of environmental issues in relation to agricultural production systems with a target audience of the agricultural community and the broader public; and developing relationships with agencies, organizations, and foundations to foster resource development for interdisciplinary and integrated research, extension, and teaching initiatives among faculty.

Kansas State University Research and Extension
(785) 532-0393,


The Current Webinar Series:  Status of Groundwater Resources in the North Central Region
August 17, 2016
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. Register here.

Monthly North Central U.S. Climate and Drought Update Webinar Series
August 18th, 2016
The monthly North Central U.S. Climate Summary and Outlook Webinar will take place on Thursday, August 18th at 1pm CDT.  Mark Svoboda from the National Drought Mitigation Center will be presenting the latest climate information and outlooks for the North Central U.S.  Mark will be summarizing recent climate anomalies and discussing their impacts around the region.  He will also present the latest (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center outlooks and potential future impacts as we move through the summer and early fall.  Additionally, he will provide an update on the potential transition to La Nina and what it may mean for this fall and winter. Access here.

StormCon: The Surface Water Quality Conference and Expo
August 22-25, 2016 Indianapolis, IN
StormCon is a tremendous opportunity for attendees to grow their stormwater initiative in a more focused, informed way, with analysis and feedback from your peers to help direct your efforts and pinpoint areas everyone can improve upon. More info .

Water Environment Federation - Water Quality Event
September 24-28, 2016 New Orleans, LA
WEFTEC®, the  Water Environment Federation's  Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference, is the biggest meeting of its kind in North America and offers thousands of water quality professionals from around the world the best water quality education and training available today. Also recognized as the world's largest annual water quality exhibition, WEFTEC's massive show floor provides unparalleled access to the field's most cutting-edge technologies and services. More info. 

Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference
October 17-19, 2016 La Crosse, WI
The goal of UMISC is to strengthen management of invasive species, especially prevention, control, and containment. Invasive species research, prevention, and management has seen great strides but much work still must be done. As the 2016 UMISC theme says, sharing innovative and practical solutions are the key to stopping the spread of invasive species in the Midwest and beyond. More info.

Minnesota Water Conference
October 18-19, 2016
The Minnesota Water Resources Conference presents innovative, practical, and applied water resource engineering solutions, management techniques, and current research about Minnesota's water resources.  More info.

2016 Eastern South Dakota Water Conference
October 27, 2016
Water is an environmental good that provides critical services for recreation, economic development, agricultural and domestic use all of which are important to human activity. Stakeholders within watersheds have differing perspectives on water quality and quantity management and the sustainability of ample sources of high quality water. The conference covers the latest strategies and research for water managers and water users on the Northern Great Plains.

Funding Opportunities
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 19:  Extension Programs for Youth Environmental and STEM Education
  • Brandon Schroeder, Sea Grant Extension Educator, Michigan State University Extension: Water Stewardship through Place-Based Education
  • Justin Houghan, Director, Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center, University of Wisconsin-Extension: STEM and Water Education
  • Kelly Feehan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Extension Educator in Horticulture, Stormwater Sleuth and Running Rain Youth Education Resources
Watch here

The 6th installment of the Communicating Climate Change Webinar:

Climate Change and Water for Agriculture Education for Extension Professionals

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." View here. 


Congratulations to North Central Region Water Network Regional Administrative Council member, Dr. Jerry Hatfield: Recipient of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, Hugh Hammond Bennett Award!
The Hugh Hammond Bennett Award recognizes extraordinary national and international accomplishments in the conservation of soil, water, and related natural resources. Jerry Hatfield is a plant physiologist and the laboratory director at the USDA Agricultural Research Service National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment. Hatfield's career has been devoted to soil and water conservation issues, and he travels and speaks tirelessly to raise awareness of the links between climate, agricultural management, production, and soil and water quality. View here.


The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) has named Chad Watts its new Executive Director
Watts joined CTIC in 2012 as project director, leading a range of highly successful conservation programs including the Indian Creek Watershed Project, the Great Lakes Cover Crop Initiative and the influential National Cover CropSurvey, which has been cited in Congressional testimony.  

Press release: Land Use and Management Workshop
In the Northern Great Plains, livestock production and watershed management often go hand in hand. If not managed properly, this combination can lead to water contaminated with harmful bacteria. This is the issue Miranda Meehan her colleagues at North Dakota State University Extension, South Dakota State University Extension, and the University of Nebraska Extension set out to address by hosting two  Land Use and Management Practices to Enhance Water Quality Workshops.  

Press release:  Great Lakes Governors Approve and Set Conditions for Limited Diversion of Lake Michigan Water to Waukesha, Wisconsin
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council (Compact Council) on Tuesday approved the Great Lakes water diversion application forwarded by the State of Wisconsin and submitted by the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin, subject to conditions required by the Compact Council. View here.

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.

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