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June 2017 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
In last month's column, I wrote that Kansas is green this season. The same above average rainfall greening up the rolling hills of eastern Kansas is also greening up lakes and rivers across the Upper Midwest and causing alarming predictions for a large dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico this year.

Check out this image from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology. Is that the Caribbean, you ask? Looks like the marine blue of the tropics, you say. Nope, it's the Yahara River, Madison Wisconsin, on June 16th, overwhelmed with blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria.  If you read the Center's blog post and look at the pictures (caution: several disturbing photos of dead things) you will see why overwhelmed is an appropriate word.

At the other end of the Mississippi River,  scientists estimate that we will see the third largest dead zone on record in the Gulf of Mexico, disrupting shrimp markets and the livelihoods and quality of life for many of our downstream neighbors.

In the Great Lakes Basin, NOAA and Heidelberg University predict that Lake Erie algae blooms will be of moderate severity in 2017, once again threatening the drinking water of approximately 11 million people.

We know that nitrogen and phosphorus from farmland and urban landscapes, relocated from land to water by heavy rain events, is leading to these dangerous, expensive, and sad events. Yes, sad - no one likes to see polluted water, dead fish, or hear parents telling children that they cannot go swimming on a hot summer day.

While it would be easy to get disheartened or default to a new, poorer status quo, constructive conversations about conditions like these can mobilize people around clear solutions like more perennial cover on our landscapes; taking unprofitable land out of agricultural production; increasing water use efficiency so less irrigation water is lost to lakes, reservoirs and streams; revitalizing our soil so that it holds more water and nutrients where they're needed; and urban/rural partnerships for more cost effective nutrient management.  

It's true that in some cases the systems we have in place do not support the best choices for water and the people that use it. We created those systems; together we can update them to reflect the new knowledge and new management systems of today. 

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. 

Watershed management: Developing leadership capacity in collaboration and civic engagement for collective action


Non-point sources of pollution are considered the most common cause of impairment to water quality in the U.S. (USEPA, 2016). Collaborative watershed groups play a central role in addressing non-point sources of pollution to surface waters of the United States. Collaborative watershed management engages key stakeholder groups in identifying water quality impairments and then developing water quality goals, strategies and actions to address the identified impairments (USEPA, 2005).  The social dimensions (e.g., civic engagement and collaborative process) are frequently cited as core elements of the watershed approach (Wright-Morton & Brown, 2011; Sabatier, et al, 2005), but many watershed leaders lack the knowledge and skills to effectively engage stakeholders in collaborative processes. The long-term goal of this project was to strengthen the capacity of the land grant universities in the North Central Region to provide educational programs and resources in the social dimensions of watershed management for watershed leaders. Toward that end, a literature review was conducted to identify key elements of watershed leadership, leading to the creation of a conceptual framework to describe the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and aspirations (KASA) required by watershed leaders to effectively lead civic engagement and collaborative processes. Four overarching themes emerged from the literature review and were identified as core values associated with civic engagement and collaboration for watershed management.

1)   Processes for dialogue and deliberation advance democratic principles.
2)   Diversity of stakeholders and participants is valued.
3)   Collaborative learning is supported.
4)   Structures and processes are in place to manage conflict.

A second key outcome of this project was to identify and characterize watershed and lake leadership programs offered through the land-grant universities around the North Central Region. Programs emphasizing civic engagement and collaborative process were also included in the program review. A more extensive inventory of instructional modules, lessons, and educational resources is currently underway as a direct result of this seed project. In summary, this project resulted in the development of a conceptual framework identifying core values and KASA associated with effective leaders in civic engagement and collaborative process for watershed management. This conceptual framework will be used to identify educational programs and products currently in use around the North Central Region and gaps in programs and products available to increase capacity among watershed leaders to effectively lead civic engagement and collaborative processes.

Project goals:

1.) In the process of identifying the educational needs of watershed leaders, the PI will convene a team of researchers and educators across the region to evaluate educational needs, existing programs, and identify opportunities for expanding and enhancing existing educational programs.

2.) The project team consists largely of university educators and researchers who, through their participation in this project, will have the opportunity to increase their own knowledge about civic engagement and collaboration in the context of watershed management. We also anticipate that the products resulting from this project will increase the capacity of educators and program leaders across the North Central Region to develop and deliver multi-state educational programs for watershed leaders in the areas of civic engagement and collaboration.

Methods and Activities:  

 The primary focus of this project was to conduct an assessment of the need for educational programs and materials related to civic engagement and collaboration for watershed management. The project was completed in three phases. Phase 1 consisted of a review of the literature to identify key characteristics of effective watershed leaders in the areas of collaboration and civic engagement. Phase 2 involved a scan of existing watershed and lake leadership programs. During Phase 3, members of the project team organized the findings from the literature review to create a conceptual framework of watershed leadership for collaboration and civic engagement. The team also created a platform to conduct a more in-depth assessment of existing watershed and lake leadership programs to identify existing educational programs and products that address the leadership attributes identified in the literature review. The in-depth program assessment will also enable the team to identify gaps in existing educational programs and products. Following is a more detailed description of the methods and activities associated with each phase of the project.

Phase 1: Literature review
Phase 2: Program Scan
Phase 3: Conceptual framework and program scan next steps

Project Contact: 


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. 

Extending aquifers with new irrigation technologies
At Kansas State University, water use is an essential research topic; after all, Kansas is one of the nation's top producers of wheat, corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, and sunflower. Water - specifically, irrigation - is a key part of the agricultural success of Kansas, but how much water is enough?
With unpredictable rainfalls and perpetually-diminishing aquifers, the solution to agricultural water use lies in quantifying exactly how much water a specific crop really needs, how much stress those plants can take, and precisely adjusting irrigation to result in a profitable harvest.
Agricultural engineers at Kansas State are experimenting with new ways to grow more crops with less water. Using a process called deficit irrigation, the engineers are reducing the amount of water applied to a crop, allowing for mild stress to the growing plants.  University researchers are experimenting to find nuances in crop water use by finding out how much stress a crop can withstand and allocating exact amounts of water precisely when it's needed.
Dr. Isaya Kisekka, an assistant professor in Kansas State's Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, is working to take the guesswork out of the equation, giving farmers the high-tech tools they need to simultaneously maintain their net profitability and protect the state's water resources for future farmers.  Dr. Kisekka is an expert in this field, having studied irrigation and its effects from the beginning as an undergraduate student in his home country of Uganda. He is continuing to push for new frontiers in agricultural water use and reserach with his current work at Kansas State. 
To discover the exact tools and techniques that would give farmers the best yields with less water, Dr. Kisekka and his team planted approximately 30 acres of corn, divided the land into equal plots, and randomly assigned five different irrigation schedules to each. The sixth treatment was the standard full irrigation systems traditionally used. By the end of the study, the results highlighted which processes best helped farmers achieve yields substantially equal to those found on fields receiving full irrigation but using 20 percent less water.
The team checked their crops in a variety of ways. Some plots were checked weekly with a neutron probe, which received irrigation only when the probe showed that the soil water had dropped below a certain percent. Similar plots had soil water sensors permanently buried beneath the gro
wing  plants. These sensors measured the available soil water near the root zone and alerted the team when the plants needed water. Dr. Kisekka and his team installed thermal infrared radiometers in other plots to provide a high-accuracy temperature reading of the crop canopy. The team irrigated these plots once the temperatures exceeded a specific limit. The remaining plots used a combination of data from the radiometers and soil water sensors.
The research team determined that irrigation scheduling based on calibrated soil water sensors and canopy temperature sensors, coupled with evapotranspiration-based water balance, could help maintain yields while eliminating unnecessary irrigation applications. Because of Dr. Kisekka's research, farmers with constrained water supplies can improve both water and crop productivity.  In the future, the next phase of this project will include on-farm research to supplement the controlled findings. Dr. Kisekka and his team hope that this study will encourage farmers to try deficit irrigation and see the benefits for Kansas' water supply.
Isaya Kisekka, Kansas State University
Isaya Kisekka is an agricultural engineer studying water management strategies for improving productivity and profitability of water-limited irrigated cropping systems. His research has led to advances in Mobile Drip Irrigation (MDI), a hybrid system that integrates drip irrigation with center pivot sprinkler irrigation. His research, based at K-State's Southwest Research Extension Center in Garden City, directly affects the community.  Kisekka works with farmers to help them adopt sustainable water management strategies and technologies, which benefits the environment while still enhancing profitability and reducing farmers' risk.
Dr. Kisekka began his career in his home country of Uganda. He attended the University of Florida and received both his master's degree and Ph.D. in agricultural engineering. He joined K-State's Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in 2013 as an assistant professor of irrigation and water management. Learn more about Dr. Kisekka and his research at
More information about irrigation, watershed restoration, and other projects also can be found at The Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment (KCARE).


Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) Annual Conference
July 30-August 2, 2017
This year's conference theme, Conservation Connections: Creating Pathways to Sustainability, focuses on an important trait that sets the SWCS annual conference apart from others: the number of disciplines who come together to share information, network, and form connections to forge best practices in soil and water conservation. The conference provides a forum for interdisciplinary discussions that are essential to the success of conservation, a field that depends upon understanding relationships and interconnectedness. Learn more.

Project AWARE, A Watershed Awareness River Expedition
July 10-14, 2017
Project AWARE isn't for the person who's afraid to get a little dirt under his or her fingernails. While most of your time is spent in a canoe or kayak, you are still fully immersed in the wilderness and eventually you're bound to get dirty. Prepare to find mud in awkward places and potentially stinky things in your canoe. Most people find this aspect appealing; remembering the days when they were just kids playing in the mud. Learn more. 

Agricultural Water Testing Project
July 19-20, 2017
The nutrient testing program is meant to be entirely voluntary and confidential. The purpose of the project is to educate landowners, producers, agronomists, and other stakeholders on nutrient management, water quality, and soil health. The first event will be held in conjunction with the Integrated Pest Management Field School at the SDSU Southeast Research Farm near Beresford, SD on July 19-20, 2017. The second event will be held in conjunction with the SDSU Volga Research Farm Field Day on July 26. The date and location of the third event has yet to be determined. Learn more.

Food, Land and Water Conference
October 16-17, 2017
The conference will present recommendations and practical steps developed over a year-long process by a wide range of invited stakeholders. We will present strategic background information and results of four stakeholder workgroups (surface water, groundwater quality, groundwater quantity, and the future of Wisconsin working lands). Attendees will have a chance to listen, discuss, build new connections and working relationships, and think about our shared resources in a more systematic and collaborative way. Learn more.

Do you know of an upcoming water or conservation event in the Midwest? Add it to the NCRWN website here

Funding and Other Opportunities
Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Resilient Agroecosystems in a Changing Climate
The AFRI Resilient Agroecosystems in a Changing Climate (RACC) Challenge Area focuses on sustainable increase in agricultural productivity and the availability and accessibility of safe and nutritious food. In FY 2017, the AFRI RACC Challenge Area will invest in one priority area, Climate, Land Use, and Land Management. Through these investments, NIFA will address the understanding of underlying processes, drivers and consequences of land use change, including biophysical and biogeochemical processes, climate feedbacks and environmental outcomes, and social, behavioral, economic and land use interaction. Applications for this Challenge Area will support multi-function Integrated Projects and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants (see Resilient Agroecosystems in a Changing Climate (RACC) Challenge Area RFA for details). Applications are due by July 13.  Learn more.

North American Wetlands Conservation Act 2018 U.S. Standard Grants
The U.S. Standard Grants Program is a competitive, matching grants program that supports public-private partnerships carrying out projects in the United States that further the goals of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. These projects must involve only long-term protection, restoration, enhancement and/or establishment of wetlands and associated uplands habitats for the benefit of all wetlands-associated migratory birds. A 1:1 match is required. Research funding is ineligible. Applications are due by July 14.  Learn more.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Water for Food Production Systems Challenge Area
This AFRI Challenge Area focuses on multidisciplinary systems approaches, which integrate new technologies and strategic management that solve water availability and quality challenges in food production systems. The long-term goal of this program is to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and availability of safe and nutritious food while significantly reducing water use and preserving water quality. August 2, 2017.  Learn more.

Upper Missouri Watershed Restoration
This project will occur across the Ruby, Big Hole, and Beaverhead Watersheds (Beaverhead includes all tributary watersheds upstream of Clark Canyon Reservoir). These watersheds comprise the southwestern portion of the Upper Missouri Watershed (a.k.a. Upper Missouri Headwaters or Missouri Headwaters Basin). In addition to the regional significance as the source for one of the largest rivers in the nation, local communities also depend on water for agriculture, drinking water, fisheries, and recreation. Applications are due by August 19.  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.


August 9, 2017 - The Current 30: Cover Crops for Healthy Soils, Water Quality and Water Availability
  • Eileen Kladivko, Purdue University
  • Dean Baas, University of Michigan
  • Anne Morrow, Purdue University

Past Webinars: 

June 21, 2017 - The Current 29: Promoting Natural and Healthy Shorelines for Protecting Lakes
  • Julia Kirkwood, Non-Point Source Grants Project Manager at Michigan Dept of Environmental Quality: The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership: Creating a Comprehensive Approach for Promoting Healthy Shoreline Management
  • Bindu Bhakti, Water Quality Educator at Michigan State University Extension Oakland County: The Importance of Natural Shorelines: Program Basics and Lessons Learned from Property Owner and Train-the-Trainer Programs
  • Patrick Goggin, UW-Extension Lake Specialist, and Pamela Toshner, Lake Biologist at Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: Wisconsin's Healthy Lakes Initiative and Best Management Practices for Lake-Friendly Living Watch Now.

Invasive Asian Carp Found 9 Miles from Lake Michigan
A commercial fishermen caught an Asian carp 9 miles from Lake Michigan on Thursday. The silver carp, one of numerous species of the invasive fish, is the first that's been found beyond electric barriers in Illinois waterways designed to keep the invasive fish out of the Great Lakes.  Learn more.

UW-Extension Education Station highlights technology on the farm
Technology is an integral part of animal management. Come to the UW-Extension Education Station at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days and visit with UW-Extension state specialists and county agriculture educators about innovative technology for your farm operation. Learn more.

Gulf of Mexico's 2017 'dead zone' predicted to be third largest in 32 years
The 2017 summertime low-oxygen " dead zone " in the  Gulf of Mexico  along the Louisiana and  Texas  shore could be the third largest ever measured, according to federally sponsored research results announced Tuesday (June 20). The prediction is based on modeling of the nutrients that are carried into the gulf by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. Learn more.

Friend or foe? Manganese concentration in drinking water needs attention, researchers say
Manganese, a trace mineral necessary in small amounts for  human health  but potentially toxic in high doses, relates differently than its cancer-causing cousin, arsenic, to dissolved organic matter in groundwater, according to a study published in Frontiers in Environmental Science. Despite the difference, the Kansas State University researchers who spearheaded the study say they think that the two metals might have a connection that could be hazardous to human health. Learn more.

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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