Subscribe Here                         Follow us on Twitter  Like us on Facebook  View our videos on YouTube
September 2016 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
The Benefits of Bridge Building
Basic research, like art, is creative and generative, making new ideas  real and tangible. In remarks made to the U.S. Senate Committee on  Commerce, Science, and Transportation in 2014, Mariette DiChristina,  editor in chief for Scientific American, described utility of basic research in shaping everything from the function of our smartphones to how we age.
In the most recent issue of Scientific American, titled The Human Experiment, editors and authors ask critical questions about human impacts on our world and each other, such as, What Mark Will We Leave on the Planet? , How Will Climate Change Us? , Who Will Prosper, and Who Will Fall Behind? , and Can We Trust Our Own Predictions?

Collectively these articles remind us that science is amoral. That we, as individuals and as civil societies, need to determine what new knowledge we need and how to use that knowledge to make our lives better. At our best, land-grant university extension educators build and maintain bridges between university researchers and the people that benefit from university research and teaching. These bridges are important to make sure that 1) universities stay grounded in how people perceive and address the problems and opportunities in their lives so their research is timely and relevant and 2) that new discoveries can help solve problems and change perceptions and world views in positive ways.
Laura Christianson's article in this month's newsletter highlights university extension at its best. The publication, Ten Ways to Reduce Nitrate Loss from Drained Lands , translates high quality research into information that people can use to better manage agricultural lands and maintain the quality of our water resources. And just think of all the other benefits we get as a result, such as more profitable farms, higher shoreland property values, high quality water-based recreational opportunities, and safer drinking water.
In another shining example of bridge building, I had the privilege of attending the Healing our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition Great Lakes Restoration Conference on the shores of Lake Erie last week. The Coalition represents over 140 nongovernmental organizations. By working together, the Coalition helped secure nearly $2 billion of new funding and over 2500 new restoration projects to improve the Great Lakes. The North Central Region Water Network is privileged to have Coalition campaign director Todd Ambs as well as one of this year's conference presenters, Laura Campbell, manager of the Michigan Farm Bureau Agricultural Ecology Department , as members of the Network's Regional Administrative Council . These kinds of diverse collaborations are necessary elements of any successful water resource management strategy.

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


Want your water questions answered by colleagues? 

Use the NCRWN ListServes to get the CORRECT answers to your questions quickly. 
To subscribe, send a blank email to the list you want to join: 
Network Initiatives
Visit our  Network Initiative Page for more information on current and previous initiatives, and future funding opportunities. 

Building Collaboration Between 1862 Land Grant Universities and 1994 Tribal Colleges in the North Central Region



This project will build on prior efforts to enhance collaboration between the Tribal Colleges and state land grants across the North Central region. Previous projects include the Tribal Water Resources Summit, led by the College of the Menominee Nation with the Great Lakes Land Grant Institutions in 2010. The First Americans Land-Grant College Organization and Network (FALCON), recently surveyed its members, and found strong interest nationwide to work on water quality-related projects.

The only currently-funded project between a 1994 and 1862 land grants in the region is "Streambank BMP's on Tribal Lands in Northeastern Kansas", funded by the USDA Tribal Colleges Research Grant Program, involving Haskell Indian Nations University and Kansas State University. There are several other water quality projects supported by other agencies, in cooperation with tribal colleges, most notably:

  1. A National Science Foundation TCUP grant with Turtle Mountain Community College in North Dakota to document water quality parameters on Ox Creek and Belcourt Lake;
  2. A USDA-NIFA research project with the White Earth Tribal and Community College in Minnesota, in cooperation with the Agricultural Research Service lab, to conduct water quality monitoring and wild rice studies;
  3. An EPA-funded project with Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Minnesota, examining the use of dragonfly larvae as biosentinels for mercury contamination, with the University of Minnesota Duluth;
  4. The Department of the Interior Northeast Climate Science Center is working with the College of the Menominee Nation on water resource- related projects.
With 19 tribal colleges (1994 land grants) across the North Central Region, there are clearly more opportunities for collaboration. There are several factors, such as vastly different missions, and the lack of similar organizational structures across the institutions, which may create barriers to cooperation. Tribal colleges are primarily teaching institutions, granting Associates and Bachelor's degrees. Extension programming, if there is any, is mostly focused on youth development, natural resources or agricultural land management. These are broad generalities, and there are several excellent exceptions across the region.

This project will help to organize and support an "Extension Water Summit" which will lead to improved communication and collaboration amongst 1994 land grants (Tribal Colleges) and the 1862 land grants (state universities). Leading up to the water summit, communications will be enhanced between these groups with the sharing of ideas via a listserv and conference calls, organized around compelling topics. Learning about other regional projects will be a key part of this activity. The outcome of this project will be at least two proposals submitted to USDA- NIFA and other sources, to initiate new collaborations, and enhance current work. The topics of these unwritten proposals is not certain, but ideas that are already being discussed include:
  1. Emergency preparedness for Tribal communities, including water supply security, flooding, drought, waste management, etc;
  2. Watershed assessments, bioassessments, agriculture BMP's, streambank stabilization;
  3. Water quality monitoring and wild rice production.

Charles Barden
Project Director, Kansas State University


Leadership Spotlight: University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign 
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.   
Nitrogen in Tile Drainage: No Silver Bullets, but Perhaps Some Silver Buckshot
Across the Mississippi River Basin, 45% reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus loads are necessary to meet national goals established to reduce the size of the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone. To address this challenge, nutrient loss reduction strategies were completed in Iowa in 2013, Minnesota in 2014, and Illinois and Indiana in 2015. The recent release of these state-based strategies has heightened the conversation around drainage nitrate loss to an unprecedented level. In Illinois, our nearly 10 million tile-drained acres contribute heavily to the more than 400 million pounds of nitrate-nitrogen sent downstream annually. While tile drainage systems are an essential component of agriculture in our region, we must collectively work at a scale never before realized to meet these water quality goals.
There are a number of practices now being promoted as a part of state nutrient strategies, all of which have different N-reduction effectiveness, spatial suitability, additional benefits and impacts, and cost. A newly funded North Central Region Water Network Seed Grant project , led by the University of Illinois, is underway to develop a comprehensive package of information about these drainage water quality-improvement practices. This educational package will include online interactive content and in print content that will leverage the newly released Ten Ways to Reduce Nitrogen Loads from Drained Cropland in the Midwest booklet.
Figure 1: The new Ten Ways to Reduce Nitrogen Loads from Drained Cropland in the Midwest booklet describes ten practices to reduce nitrate loads from tile-drained fields.
The ten practices featured include in-field cropping and management strategies (i.e., practices that reduce nitrate in the root zone), in-field strategies that modify the drainage system (i.e., practices that reduce delivery of nitrate to the field's edge), and edge-of-field strategies (i.e., practices that remove nitrate at the edge of the field or downstream). Specifically, the ten practices are:
  1. Improved Nitrogen Management
  2. Winter Cover Crops
  3. Increasing Perennials in the Cropping System
  4. Drainage Water Management (Controlled Drainage)
  5. Reduced Drainage Intensity
  6. Recycling Drainage Water
  7. Woodchip Bioreactors
  8. Wetlands
  9. Alternative Open-Ditch Design (Two-stage Ditches)
  10. Saturated Buffers
Figure 2: Decision map from the introduction of the Ten Ways to Reduce Nitrogen Loads from Drained Cropland in the Midwest booklet.
This new Ten Ways booklet is structured to answer key questions about each practice:
  1. What is the practice?
  2. How does the practice improve water quality?
  3. How effective is the practice?
  4. Where does the practice work?
  5. Additional benefits of the practice
  6. Level of acceptance of the practice
  7. Questions and opportunities (key research needs to help refine the practice)
  8. Additional information (links and references for each practice) 
New products supporting this booklet will increase the reach of this material, and will improve understanding of these practices across the multi-state region. Eventually, a PowerPoint slide deck that pairs with the booklet will be available for Extension and other educators. An online interactive module and a summary factsheet for the project will also be in development over the coming year. To access the booklet online please click here . A limited number of printed copies are available courtesy the North Central Region Water Network, and if you're interested please let me or one of your project team members know.
Project team:
Dr. Laura Christianson (Assistant Professor, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois; )
Dr. Jane Frankenberger (Professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University; )
Dr. Chris Hay (Senior Environmental Scientist, Iowa Soybean Association; )
Dr. Matt Helmers (Professor, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Iowa State University; )
Dr. Gary Sands (Professor, Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota; )
Dr. Laura Christianson, Assistant Professor, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois
Dr. Laura Christianson began her research/extension role as Research Assistant Professor of Water Quality in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois in September 2015. She formerly worked as a consulting research engineer on the design of woodchip bioreactors for removal of nitrate from point and non-point sources, studied options to improve ditch drainage water quality in Maryland, and has done research on drained dairy pastures as a Fulbright Fellow in New Zealand. Dr. Christianson serves as the Illinois liaison for the North Central Region Water Network and as one of the co-director's for the Illinois SARE program.
 Laura E. Christianson, Ph. D.
 S322 Turner Hall
 (217) 244-6173

Great Lakes Adaptation Forums
October 5-7, 2016 Ann Arbor, MI
The 2016 Great Lakes Adaptation Forum will bring together hundreds of practitioners and researchers from across the Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States for 3 days of sharing climate adaptation and resilience solutions and products in an engaged learning program. More info.
Great Lakes Commission 2016 Annual Meeting 
October 6-7, 2016 Toronto, Ontario
The Great Lakes Commission 2016 Annual Meeting is an opportunity for Great Lakes stakeholders to convene with colleagues and share perspectives on important Great Lakes issues.  More info.
Upper Mississippi River Conference
October 13-14  Moline, IL
"Raising the Grade" is the theme for the 9th Annual Upper Mississippi River Conference, which will be held in October and focus on the health of the Mississippi River watershed and what can be done to improve water quality.  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. 

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. More info.

Funding Opportunities
Training and Technical Assistance to Improve Water Quality and Enable Small Public Water Systems to Provide Safe Drinking Water
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting applications from eligible applicants as described in Section III.A to provide training and technical assistance for small public water systems to help such systems achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), and to provide training and technical assistance for small publicly owned wastewater systems, communities served by onsite/decentralized wastewater systems, and private well owners to improve water quality under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Training and technical assistance activities provided to these systems, communities and private well owners should be made available nationally in rural and urban communities and to personnel of tribally- owned and operated systems.  More Info.

National Science Foundation - Environmental Sustainability
The goal of the Environmental Sustainability program is to promote sustainable engineered systems that support human well-being and that are also compatible with sustaining natural (environmental) systems. Research efforts supported by the program typically consider long time horizons and may incorporate contributions from the social sciences and ethics. Innovations in management of storm water, recycling and reuse of drinking water, and other green engineering techniques to support sustainability may also be fruitful areas for research.   More Info.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change Challenge Area
This AFRI Challenge Area focuses on the priority to mitigate and adapt to climate variability and change. It supports activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration in agricultural and forest production systems, and prepare the nation's agriculture and forests to adapt to variable climates. The long-term outcome for this program is to reduce the use of energy, nitrogen fertilizer, and water by ten percent and increase carbon sequestration by fifteen percent through resilient agriculture and forest production systems. In order to achieve this outcome, this program will support multi-function Integrated Research, Education, and/or Extension Projects and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants. More info.

In Case You Missed it...
The Current Webinar 21: Planning for the Future of a Watershed: Lessons from Yahara 2070 -  Watch here
  • Christopher Kucharik, Professor, UW-Madison Department of Agronomy and Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and Global Change
  • Eric Booth, Assistant Research Scientist in Ecohydrology, Departments of Agronomy and Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Jenny Seifert, Science Writer/Outreach Coordinator, UW-Madison Water Sustainability and Climate Project
October 19, 2016: TBD
November 16, 2016:  Nutrient and Manure Management in the Northern Great Plains
View archived webinars here
Challenge to Waukesha Diversion Approval
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Sustainable Water Resources Council approved the City of Waukesha's request for a diversion of water from Lake Michigan on June 21st, 2016, after a review process. On August 19th, 2016, the Cities Initiative requested a hearing to challenge the decision.  View here. 
EPA, Michigan, and Local Officials Mark the Restoration of the River Raisin Area of Concern
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Senior Advisor Cameron Davis joined Michigan Office of the Great Lakes Director Jon Allan, Monroe Mayor Robert Clark and local partners in Monroe, Mich., to mark the near completion of restoration at the River Raisin Area of Concern. View here.

USDA Announces $26 Million Investment to Spur Agricultural Innovation
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the investment of $26.6 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture into 45 projects that will spur innovative conservation initiatives on both rural and urban farms across the country. The investment is made through USDA's Conservation Innovation Grants program, which fosters innovation in conservation tools and strategies to improve things like on-farm energy and fertilizer use as well as market-based strategies to improve water quality or mitigate climate change. View here. 

EPA Kicks Off Fifth Annual Campus RainWorks Challenge
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched its fifth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, a competition for college and university students to design innovative solutions for our nation's water infrastructure. Using their campuses as labs, teams develop green infrastructure systems to reduce stormwater pollution and build resilience to climate change. Since 2012, more than 420 student teams have participated in the challenge. View here.
EPA Awards $4.8 million to Six Universities to Research Water Quality Benefits
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced funding to six universities to work with local communities to better understand the economic value of water quality.  "Clean water is a cornerstone of a healthy community. Many communities face challenging decisions about investing in the protection of water resources," said Thomas Burke, EPA science advisory and deputy assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Research and Development. "These grants will help measure the costs and benefits of improving water quality, an important step toward protecting the environment and human health."   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 new fact sheet for more details. 
N CRWN is now on Facebook
Like us on Facebook
In order to reach a broader audience and continue to share information, we are now on the most popular social media site that is available. Please like us on Facebook, comment, and continue the dialogue about NCRWN and regional and national water issues.   
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.

View our videos on YouTube  Follow us on Twitter  Like us on Facebook