September 2015 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update

The Power of People
Computers are awe-inspiring devices that enable us to identify an unknown weed or find the best nearby place to have dinner in seconds. Computers can do complicated calculations quickly and accurately. What they cannot do however, is tell us what questions are worth asking and how much time and treasure we should put into answering them.
The value of this workshop is that it brings together climate scientists, soil scientists, agronomists, Extension specialists and educators, risk managers and others. Our hosts asked us to share climate-related questions pertaining to our work . Michigan State University Extension educator Mark Longstroth asked several detailed questions clearly demonstrating hand-in-glove relationship between fruit production, weather, and climate. His questions dealt with small changes in wind speed and direction that affect the distribution/drift of different pesticides; changes in wind speed and dew point that affect frost damage to crops; and of course, changes in precipitation timing, form, and quantity in the short- and long-term.
Extension educators like Mark can integrate a large amount of information quickly and in ways that are most useful to farmers, agricultural advisors, and other "end-users" of science.  Similarly, they can present the needs of farmers so that scientists and agencies can apply their skills in ways that are most likely to get incorporated into farmer decision-making.
While we need computer models and decision support tools to help us make sense of the massive amount of information available to us, we still need talented, experienced people to help us understand the right questions and put that information into a human context.  Particularly with complex and sometimes contentious conversations about agriculture and climate, it's great to see that the power of Extension educators and specialists is being tapped to translate science to success.

Important Item:
  • SAVE THE DATE! The North Central Region Water Network's second conference and regional working session will be March 21-23, 2016 in Lincoln, NE.  Theme: "From Science to Success." More details coming soon!

Rebecca Power, Network Director

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Network Initiatives
For the next several months we will take a closer look at the 2014 & 2015 initiatives. For more information on these, visit our  Network Initiatives Page.

Watershed Management:  Developing Leadership Capacity in Collaboration and Civic Engagement for Collective Action
The purpose of this project is to conduct a needs assessment of the need for educational programming on collaboration and civic engagement among watershed leaders. The needs assessment will also involve an inventory and evaluation of existing educational programs targeting watershed leaders to determine what is being taught and to identify high quality programs and materials that could be adapted by other programs in other states. Results of the needs assessment will be reviewed by a panel of experts from within and outside the land-grant system resulting in a strategic plan to address priority educational needs across the North Central Region.

Intended Impacts
Impacts of this project in the short term include increased knowledge and awareness among university educators of the competencies required by watershed leaders to lead or facilitate collaborative processes and civic engagement. We also anticipate that the strategic plan will lead to the development of new educational programs and enhancement of existing educational programs targeting watershed leadership, which will ultimately result in more effective watershed plans and improved water quality.

The inventory of watershed and lake leadership programs started in the spring of 2015 and was reported to the core team in May 2015.  From June through August 2015 subgroups from the core team worked with an expert panel to identify priority knowledge / skill areas, exemplary programs, and priorities for new program development.  The results from the subgroup work will be reviewed by an external review panel in September and October 2015, which will inform the development of a comprehensive strategic plan by December 2015.

Project Contacts
Joe Bonnell, PhD
Program Director, School of Environment and Natural Resources

View project updates here!

Leadership Spotlight: Purdue 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. 

Tile drains are needed for crop production but have negative water quality impacts. 
Subsurface tile drainage is a key component of highly productive agriculture in a large and growing portion of the North Central Region. Although drainage is  needed for timely planting and high crop yields in these areas, concern is growing about its negativ e water quality impacts, as tile drains increase the loss of nitrate from cropped fields and provide a direct pathway for phosphorus loss in some soils.  A second concern with our current drainage systems is that even areas that require drainage can experience reductions in crop yields due to lack of water at critical times in the summer. Climate change is expected to increase these impacts, as wet periods of the year become even wetter and drought potential increases during dry times. Retaining more water in the landscape would address both these concerns. 

A new project led by Purdue University and funded by a $5 million grant from USDA NIFA
The transforming drainage project is bringing together data from current and historic drainage research sites throughout the North Central Region. 
will advance research and extension on strategies for retaining water that can increase resilience of crop production on drained land. Drainage researchers and extension specialists across the North Central Region, from North and South Dakota to Ohio, have been developing and evaluating such drainage management strategies for years. The new project, called "Managing Water for Increased Resiliency of Drained Agricultural Landscapes", will increase the impact of these individual studies and conduct coordinated Extension programs to help farmers adopt the new practices. The practices have been evaluated at scattered fields across the region but this project will bring the findings together and make them into tools to improve decision-making that have the potential reduce the negative water quality impacts and increase water availability when the crop can use it by retaining water.
The project will advance three ways to retain water from farm fields that can address both the problem of crop loss from increased likelihood of summer drought and the degradation of water quality from drained farmland:
  • Controlled drainage retains water in the soil above the drain, holding water in the field during periods when drainage is not needed.
  • Saturated buffers retain tile water in the soil of the field buffers, allowing denitrification of the nitrate.
  • Drainage water recycling retains drainage water in  on-farm ponds or reservoirs until it is needed for crop irrigation.  
Drainage water recycling stores drainage water in a pond until it can be used for irrigation when need by the crop.
Extension and education programs will extend the strategies and tools to agricultural producers, the drainage industry, watershed managers, agencies and policymakers, and educate the next generation of engineers and scientists designing drainage systems that include storage in the landscape.  The project has the goal of transforming the mindset around drainage, and therefore has adopted the name "Transforming Drainage" to remind us of the need to retain water so that it can be used by crops and protect downstream water quality. 

Jane Frankenberger, Purdue University

Jane Frankenberger is a professor of agricultural and biological engineering and extension agricultural engineer at Purdue University. Her research and extension focuses on improving watershed management and water quality in drained agricultural watersheds. She has been a visiting scientist at US EPA and water quality science advisor for USDA NRCS, and spent eight years working in Africa before joining Purdue University. 

Contact information: 
 (765) 494-1194

The Current Webinar Series

Our  w ebinar series is your connection to our Network and water outreach, research and collaboration efforts across the North Central Region. Designed for busy working professionals like yourself, the webinars are only an hour and won't take up much space on your calendar. We hope you will join the conversation. 

Please visit our webinar overview page for details on upcoming and past webinars. 

The Current Webinar 14:  Farmer Leadership in Watershed Management
October 21, 2015 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. CT


  • Lois Wright-Morton, Professor of Sociology, Iowa State University
  • Julia Olmstead, Outreach Specialist, University of Wisconsin-Extension
  • Todd Sutphin, Operations Manager, Iowa Soybean Association

Past Webinars:
If you happened to miss one of our webinars in 2014 or 2015, be sure to visit our webinar archive page to get caught up on the latest from our Network. You can also view these by going directly to our NEW NCRWN YouTube Page.   Thank you!

Ag Drainage Water Management Webinar Series by USDA-NRCS
Webinars: July 22 - December 16, 2015
Agricultural drainage water management and drainage water quality are the topics of a series of webinars recently developed by a team of extension specialists from several Upper Midwest universities. The webinars will be presented monthly from July through December.  The webinars will provide best management practices for improving drainage water quality and information from multiple states across the Midwest. They are structured to provide both the perspective of the farmer/practitioner and the research/extension specialist.   The six one-hour webinars will be held at 9 a.m. Central Time on the following Wednesdays: July 22, Aug. 19, Sept. 16, Oct. 21, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16.  Learn more here.

Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium
Madison, WI: October 14-15, 2015
Join the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office for a two day exploration of Maritime Cultural Landscapes in Madison, Wisconsin. The symposium will explore how the terrestrial and submerged resources near and in the nation's oceans, rivers, and lakes might be identified, characterized, and evaluated, and what benefits may be derived from the broader recognition of these landscapes as unique entities "worthy of preservation." Learn more here.

Nutrient Management and Edge of Field Monitoring: 
From the Great Lakes to the Gulf
December 1-3, 2015
The collaborative effort, starting with the 2014 Workshop, is organized around the development of data-driven, region-specific case studies highlighting a systems approach to BMP strategies to reduce nutrient exports to water resources in the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watersheds.  Learn more here.

From Science to Success: Bridging the Gap Between Knowledge and Practice in Water Resource Management
Lincoln, Nebraska: March 21-23, 2016
Save the date for the North Central Region Water Network's 2016 Conference "From Science to Success". Check back for details Learn more here. 
Funding Opportunities
Small Business Innovation Research Program
Deadline: October 8, 2015
USDA SBIR's flexible research areas ensure innovative projects consistent with USDA's vision of a healthy and productive nation in harmony with the land, air, and water. USDA SBIR Program has awarded over 2000 research and development projects since 1983, allowing hundreds of small businesses to explore their technological potential, and providing an incentive to profit from the commercialization of innovative ideas.  More info.

Urban Waters Small Grants
Deadline: November 20, 2015
EPA's Urban Waters Program helps local residents and their organizations, particularly those in underserved communities, restore their urban waters in ways that also benefit community and economic revitalization. One of the ways the Urban Waters Program is accomplishing this mission is through the Urban Waters Small Grants Program. This program recognizes that healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and enhance educational, recreational, social, and employment opportunities in nearby communities. More info.

In Case You Missed it...
The Current Webinar 13:
 Citizen Water Quality Monitoring
  • Matt Young, Illinois RiverWatch Coordinator, Overview of Citizen Monitoring
  • Peggy Doty, Illinois Extension Educator, Energy & Environmental Stewardship, Intro to Extension's Nutrient-Related Water Quality Outreach Efforts
  • Ilana Haimes, UW-Extension Program Assistant, Making the Connection Between Citizen Monitoring and Nutrient Related Water Quality Outreach

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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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