March 2016 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
2016 Spring Conference Recap

Across the North Central Region, conference season has peaked and is now quieting down as the field season moves northward.  The North Central Region Water Network is following suit, having completed our second conference as of March 23.  You can see and listen to conference plenary presentations on our website. Our University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosts provided inspirational examples of how universities organize for impact, providing science and education that will help ensure sustainable water supplies for agriculture, communities, and ecosystems that supply diverse and valuable services. 

Network participants attending the conference organized and participated in break-out sessions on climate change, irrigation, nutrient and manure management, stormwater management, watershed leadership, youth water literacy and stewardship, volunteer stream monitoring and several other topics.  Look for more information and useful products from these groups as they continue to grow and develop.  You can stay up to date by checking the Network Initiatives section of our website or by contacting initiative leaders listed on their respective web pages.

As valuable as these conversations with our colleagues are, seeing and experiencing the agricultural and natural resources we are researching and teaching about is critical to our success. One of learning opportunities we enjoyed while in Nebraska is the breathtaking sandhill crane migration along Nebraska's Platte River valley. Over 80% of the world's population of sandhill cranes pause on their journey north to rest and refuel and "conference" loudly with one another. Not much different than our conference really - just better scenery!

Thanks also to the many University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty, educators, and partners that made our trip stand out. You are clearly on the forefront of integrating food, water, and energy systems for a resilient and abundant future.


Rebecca Power, Network Director

Important Item:

Call for photos! 
You see amazing things. Every day. We want to see what you see - whether it's people working hard for cleaner water, a new generation of water researchers or water stewards, or a beautiful sunset over your favorite lake. We want to see your originals . These images will be repurposed for future North Central Region Water Network newsletters, webinars, on the website, and other educational materials. We have created five categories but feel free to create your own. Submit up to 5 of and encourage your colleagues to submit theirs as well! 

Photographers often see what is invisible to the human eye, hidden, or taken for granted. Take us further, to what is beyond the surface.

Please submit in the following categories: 
  1. Recreational Water Use
  2. Water at Work
  3. Water at Risk
  4. Water Research and Extension
  5. The Beauty of Water 
Please fill in your info here and access instructions will be sent to you:  Photo Upload Access


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

Daily Erosion Project and Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework-Extension Tools for Addressing Soil and Water Degradation

Accelerated soil erosion has reduced agricultural production potential, increased production costs and degraded water quality in the North Central Region. This region has been repeatedly implicated as a major contributor to the Northern Gulf of Mexico hypoxia. The connection between soil erosion on agricultural lands and degraded water quality and lost production potential is unquestioned. However, knowledge of how much soil erosion is actually occurring and spatial distribution of soil erosion rates is very limited. Correcting a soil management problem that leads to excessive soil loss is much more likely if soil loss is quantified and/or expressed in ways stake holders understand and recognize and if management alternatives appropriate for the problem are identified.
Water quality and increasingly quantity issues, and processes associated with these issues, cut across nearly all segments of society and concurrently are programming focus areas for various university, agency, non-profit, producer and other groups in the North Central Region. This focus is often being driven by findings such as those from the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force and the resulting state level nutrient strategies that call for 30 to 45% reductions in nutrient loss. Roles of each group differ to some extent, but the ultimate goal consistently is to reduce human, environmental, and economic stress from water quality degradation and from water excess such as that associated with flooding. A relatively new approach to addressing water and water related problems involves watershed community building and connectivity of stakeholders within and even outside the watershed to partner in identifying and addressing water related challenges. One of the weakest points in identifying critical watersheds and efficiently focusing limited resources is lack of reliable information that can be used to identify areas disproportionately impacting water degradation.
Project deliverables include the  Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF)  databases for approximately 450 HUC12s in the 28 counties targeted for expansion. ACPF database distribution is currently handled manually through the USDA ARS National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment but an automated distribution process is under development. The Daily Erosion Project (DEP) website will also be updated with estimates in the HUC12s for which the ACPF has been created and will also have a section on scenario comparisons added. Approximately 40 ACPF and DEP trained professionals from across multiple states will also gain the capacity to use two of the most sophisticated soil and water quality improvement tools available in the North Central Region. ACPF expansion work was conducted during fall 2015 and winter 2016 with training conducted in late winter/spring 2016.
Intended Impacts
To further knowledge of the DEP and  ACPF  we will conduct two, two-day trainings for Extension personnel in water resources and watershed managers. These personnel will be identified by each state's cooperating partner. This training will require development of training materials for DEP and enable users to better navigate the DEP website and interpret the results contained therein. We will also train the audience in use of the ACPF to suggest best management practices that will help meet each area's individual water quality goals. ACPF training has already been conducted at locations in Iowa and Minnesota, and similar sessions are part of this project. Training materials for use of DEP and ACPF will also be made available on the DEP website, and training evaluations will be conducted to improve the online materials and any future training sessions. We also plan to conduct evaluations of management changes over time using the DEP/ACPF databases to detect changes in cover crop use and changes in tillage intensity.
Richard Cruse
Iowa State University
3012 Agronomy Hall


Leadership Spotlight: Michigan 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. 

Michigan State University Extension: Helping to Meet the Needs of Flint and Beyond

The crisis in Flint, MI due to the lead in drinking water has received national attention, and Michigan State University Extension is one of numerous entities helping to meet the needs of the Flint community.  When the water source for the city of Flint was switched from Lake Huron water treated by Detroit's water plant to water from the Flint River, corrosive control agents were not added to the water.  This resulted in the leaching of lead from service lines, pipes, and household plumbing into the drinking water supply.  Since this information became available, multiple groups across the University and Extension have reached out through on-site programs on nutrition and reducing the risks of lead poisoning; working with partners and public health officials in Flint on proper nutrition to fight the effects of lead; producing articles on water filters, faucet aerators, lead testing, how lead in water affects garden soils, and lead poisoning in pets; providing coverage on water quality issues through its public television and radio channels; and developing a phone app that provides timely information on water safety tips, boil water alerts, health and nutrition information, and directions to the closest water stations.

Although Flint has been a huge focus, other programs are also benefiting people throughout the state.  Michigan is pilot-testing a program called Pay for Performance (PfP) Conservation, which provides a cash payment based on the number of pound of phosphorus being prevented from getting into the water.  The program thus allows flexibility to farmers in finding the most cost-effective ways for reducing phosphorus loss from their fields, and can help increase profits for the farmer. Since c alculating nutrient loss reductions per field is very labor-intensive and not practical, various modeling tools have been developed to help with these estimates.  The two PfP pilot programs being tested will use the Great Lakes Watershed Management System (GLWMS) to help determine phosphorus loss. Previous work in Iowa and Vermont used each state's P Index Tool. A PfP pilot in Wisconsin is using the SNAP-Plus tool.

Michigan has over 11,000 lakes greater than five acres and more than 1000 greater than 100 acres in surface area. Protection and management of this widespread resource requires help from multiple entities. To share information on the work being done, the 2nd biennial  Inland Lakes Convention
will be held this April and will focus on successful lake protection and management.  Developed under the umbrella organization, the Michigan Inland Lakes Partnership, of which MSU Extension is a co-founder, the three day event being held at Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls, MI, will present concurrent talks, workshops, a tour, exhibits and a plenary session on topics relating to natural shorelines, aquatic invasive species management, fish habitat, riparian law, leadership skills, current research and management Issues, and many more topics. The Convention is expected to draw nearly 400 lake researchers, lake managers, practitioners, agency personnel, students and riparian owners. 

MSU Extension developed and originally delivered the Sustainable Forestry Education (SFE) training program for the forest products industry in Michigan. Modules and field applications included Best Manage Practices (BMP) which highlights site layout, road construction, stream crossings and riparian zone management to help reduce erosion and sedimentation to help protect water quality.  Now being run by the Michigan Forest Products Council, the program, since its inception in 1996 has introduced over 3,000 logging professionals to practices that help protect Great Lakes water resources. The most recent independent audit indicated that 94% of logging practices are within the parameters of acceptable practices.

Dr. Lois Wolfson, Michigan State University

Dr. Lois Wolfson is a Specialist with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Institute of Water Research at MSU.  She received her PhD from Michigan State University in Fisheries and Wildlife in 1992 with an emphasis in limnology.  Her major research and outreach interests include aquatic invasive plants, harmful algal blooms, lake management, and developing programs that increase people's understanding of critical water issues.  She teaches an upper level techniques course in aquatic systems.

Contact Info: 

(517) 353-9222
The Current Webinar Series: April 20, 2016
"Developing a Land-grant Institution Soil Health Network in the North Central Region"
  • Dr. Mahdi Al-Kaisa, Iowa State University - 
    Iowa Soil Health Conference: Lessons learned from hosting a soil health conference
  • Walt Sell, Purdue University - 
    Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative (CCSI): How Extension, SWCD, ISDA and NRCS work together for soil health programming
  • Paul Gross, Michigan State University - 
    North Central Region Soil Health Group: Building a soil health network across state lines
  • View my videos on YouTube


Ag Drainage Climate Change Webinar
April 12, 2016: 2:00-3:30 CT
State Level Nutrient Reduction Strategy Series Webinar - Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework: An Overview and Experience in Beargrass Creek and Silver Creek Watersheds
  • Mark Tomer, USDA, Agricultural Research Service
  • John Sloan, Great Rivers Research and Education Center
  • Janet Buchanan, Heartlands Conservancy
  • Joe Magner, University of Minnesota
  • Susan Stephan, Wabash County SWCD
  • Linda Prokopy, Purdue University More info.
Climate Change and Water for Agriculture Education for Extension Professionals Webinar Series
April 20, 2016: 1:00-2:00 CT
Climate Impacts on Beef Cattle Selection and Grazing Management
The series of webinars enables Extension personnel and partners in the North Central 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.  More info.

Hypoxia Taskforce Public Meeting and Webcast
April 26, 2016: St. Louis, MO
For those unable to attend in person, there is an option to view the meeting via webcast. The only requirements for attending the webcast are that you register and have a computer with sound so that you can see and hear the presentations. You can listen to the webcast through your computer speakers or headphones connected to your computer. A phone line will not be provided. After you register for the webcast, instructions about how to join the webcast will be emailed to you. More info.
2016 Michigan Inland Lakes Convention
April 28-30, 2016: Boyne Falls, MI
The Convention is expected to draw more than 400 people and dozens of exhibitors. Included in the three-day event will be keynote addresses from distinguished speakers, workshops, field trips, concurrent sessions on a wide range of topics, receptions, door prizes, and plenty of networking opportunities.  More info.
Funding Opportunities
EPA Climate Change Grant Opportunity
Deadline: April 8, 2016
EPA Environmental Education Local Grants Program - $2.7 million
Eligible Entities: State and local education agencies, colleges and universities, nonprofits. 
EPA is making available funding to support locally focused environmental education projects that increase public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues. Proposals should address climate change and air quality, chemical safety, waste management, water conservation, and state, tribal, and local partnerships. More info.

North Central Region Water Network: Extension and Capacity-Building Seed Funding  
Deadline: May 2, 2016 
Lead applicants must have an Extension appointment/assignment at a land-grant institution in the North Central Region. The purpose of this request for applications is to support the goals of the North Central Region Water Network. A maximum of $80,000 will be awarded, with each award being up to $30,000. It is anticipated that three to six awards will be made through this application.

In Case You Missed it...

NCRWN Fact Sheet

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


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