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March 2018 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
Day Zero
Natural resource geek that I am, I must confess that I've seen very few natural disaster movies. My small list includes James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic, Steven Soderbergh's 2011 film  Contagion, Craig Gillespie's The Finest Hours (2016), and Roar Uthaug's Norwegian film The Wave (2015) (thank you for the recommendation, Martha Martin!). No Day After Tomorrow (2004), no The Impossible (2012), and certainly no Into the Storm (2014) or Geostorm (2017).
The greatest of these films capture our hearts and our minds. The characters remind us of the best and worst of ourselves and the people we know. They take us far enough outside of our own world to change our perspective and keep us close enough so we can bring the story back with us when the lights come up.
"Day Zero" would make a great natural disaster film title, but it's not a headline you would want coming to your community anytime soon. Day Zero is the term Cape Town, South Africa, uses to describe the day its public water supply will be shut down due to extreme water shortages. This is on top of the already deep cut in water use that Capetonians and farmers in the surrounding countryside have made.
As with most natural resource management issues, the problem is a combination of long-term overuse of existing supplies, lack of sufficient planning for new supplies, and nature's mood swings -in this case a severe drought. As is also common with natural resource management, scientists have been researching and communicating about the coming crisis for decades.
So, are there any larger American cities that risk a run-in with Day Zero? Not quite like Cape Town. U.S. Day Zero scenarios tend to look different because in our most water-stressed large urban environments we have the ability to implement water transfers and water conservation programs. However, smaller communities do face water shortages and some have come to their own Day Zeroes, most notably the Tulare County, California, town of East Porterville, with just over 7,300 residents. As most farmers know, we need to pay attention to the backstory here. Farm families and communities that rely on agriculture also bear the burden of our poor planning.
Here in the North Central Region, land-grant university researchers and educators like Suat Irmak and Xin Qiao at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Steve Miller at Michigan State University, and Jonathan Aguilar at K-State are helping agriculture and surrounding communities make the most efficient use of water possible. You can hear more about Xin, Steve, and Jonathan's work during our next edition of The Current on April 11 at 2 pm CST, 3 pm EST.
The value of the Day Zero concept is that it puts a clear and understandable point on the complex and interconnected nature of water use and management locally, regionally, and globally. Day Zero is not a film title for a story we've made up. It's the headline for a powerful narrative that has motivated collective action on the part of urban and rural residents in and around Cape Town.
I know there are other powerful ways that people are framing water issues in the North Central Region. Please share them with us and our readers here.


Rebecca Power, Network Director

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Network Initiative Spotlight 
Each month we highlight a Network initiative that is working to ensure safe and sufficient water supplies and sustainable, resilient communities. These initiatives include those that are funded and coordinated by the Network, as well as region-wide water programs and projects. Visit our  Network Initiative page for more information on current and previous initiatives, region-wide collaborations, and future funding opportunities. 

SERA-46:  Framework for Nutrient Reduction Strategy Collaboration- The Role for Land Grant Universities

The Northern Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone measured 22,720 square kilometers (8,776 square miles) in July 2017, the largest on record. To help combat this New Jersey sized area of low oxygen, the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (Hypoxia Task Force) was formed in 1997 to investigate the causes, coordinate activities to reduce its size, and to work more effectively to manage nitrogen and phosphorus within participating states.
In 2013, land-grant university representatives from 12 Mississippi River basin states formed a sister organization to the federal task force. The Southern Extension and Research Activities committee number 46 (SERA-46) is one of a group of formal USDA-NIFA and land-grant university funded committees designed to promote multi-state research and Extension activities. SERA-46 brings together researchers and Extension specialists sharing a common interest and expertise related to the environmental, social, and economic factors that contribute to nutrient loss from agricultural lands, state-level nutrient impairments, and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.
SERA-46 and the Hypoxia Task Force established common shared priorities in May 2015, and these priorities were subsequently updated in September 2017. These shared priorities serve as a basis for projects involving SERA-46 members related to strengthening networks, conservation systems research and outreach, and monitoring and tracking progress toward achieving the goal of reducing the hypoxic zone to 5,000 square kilometers.
Special project funds from US EPA, the Walton Family Foundation, and other partners have assisted in the progress of priorities such as developing social measures of impact for use in priority watersheds; strengthening a network of watershed leaders (including those who are farmers) to increase the effectiveness of strategies for reducing nutrient losses from agricultural lands; and developing a framework to report progress with nonpoint source nutrient reduction.

This January, SERA-46 representatives participated in a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. in partnership with the Northeast Midwest Institute to 
discuss the collaboration occurring between land-grant universities, state agencies, and federal agencies through the work of SERA-46 faculty with the Hypoxia Task Force and its Coordinating Committee. The committee also described on-the-ground research and Extension activities aimed at reducing nutrient runoff into the Mississippi basin and ultimately Gulf hypoxia.

Most recently, through a grant from USEPA, a team of SERA-46 members hosted the Great Lakes to Gulf Watershed Leadership Summit in Memphis, TN, in February. Over 40 participants from 12 MARB states, representing farmers, farm advisors, state and federal agencies, universities, and NGOs, gathered to share ideas, brainstorm solutions, and develop partnerships to tackle nutrient losses in the MARB.

Amanda Abnee Gumbert
SERA-46 Co-Chair
Extension Water Quality Specialist
UK Cooperative Extension Service

Leadership Spotlight

Edge-of-Field Research Focuses on Controlled Drainage and Saturated Buffers for Reducing Nutrient Runoff
By Lois Wolfson and Ehsan Ghane
Agriculture in Michigan is one of the three biggest industries in the state and it is essential to the state's economy. An important component of agriculture is subsurface (tile) drainage, since it improves infiltration and moves water off the field quickly for crop production. However, subsurface drainage can increase nutrient transport to surface water. A study of Ohio's watersheds demonstrated that 48% of dissolved phosphorus losses from the field were from subsurface drainage. This nutrient delivery to streams and lakes can have a detrimental impact on the water quality and the environment due, in part, to algal blooms and toxin production from some algal species.

A new outlet pipe and anti-seep collar being installed at a saturated buffer monitoring site
To help combat this issue, a 5-year project at Michigan State University is looking to determine if controlled drainage and saturated buffers can improve surface water quality by reducing the loss of both dissolved phosphorus and nitrogen in subsurface drainage water.

A saturated buffer is a practice where drainage water from the outlet is diverted into the soil through perforated pipes along the drainage ditch.

Controlled drainage is a practice where the outlet level of the drainage system can be raised or lowered, resulting in a lower or higher discharge based on the time of the year. The benefit of raising the outlet level during the non-growing season is to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus delivery by reducing subsurface discharge. Lowering the outlet level drains the field, so farmers can get their equipment in the field before planting and harvest. The outlet level can also be raised prior to applying manure to reduce the chance of nutrient loss through subsurface drainage. In addition to reducing nutrient loss from the farm, controlled drainage can also increase crop yield. Research regarding the phosphorus reduction of controlled drainage, however, is limited.

Dr. Ghane assessing a drainage control structure
Principal investigator Dr. Ehsan Ghane,
Assistant Professor in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering and MSU Extension, is leading the research team. The $1.5 million project funded by the Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and  Environmental Quality is the first on-farm research project in the state involving controlled drainage and saturated buffer conservation practices. The project aims to determine the effectiveness of controlled drainage for reducing nutrient transport of phosphorus and nitrogen and the impact the drainage has on crop yield. The team is also evaluating the performance of a saturated buffer in reducing nutrient delivery in drainage water.

The project will take place in the River Raisin Watershed, a tributary to Lake Erie. Lake Erie has experienced severe harmful algal blooms in 8 out of the last 10 years, and dissolved reactive phosphorus has been identified as one of the leading causes. Ghane's research at three different on-farm sites within the watershed will explore the amount of water, nutrients and E.coli resulting from controlled drainage and saturated buffer practices.

"We will quantify the effectiveness of these practices for reducing nutrient transport in drainage water, and we expect to gain a better understanding of phosphorus dynamics in drainage water," Ghane emphasized.

The team will measure drainage discharge and nutrient concentration, and calculate nutrient load in drainage water. Their findings will be used to develop a local management guideline and provide more information on potential benefits and effects of controlled drainage.

Ehsan Ghane, Michigan State University

Dr. Ehsan Ghane, Assistant Professor in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, has research and Extension interests in the areas of water quality and agricultural drainage. He educates diverse groups, including drainage contractors, agricultural producers, and the general public. In addition to his research interests in practices that can reduce nutrient load runoff to surface water and conserve water for crop use, Ghane is also interested in modeling and simulation of the effects of management practices on water quality. Ehsan received his MS from Isfahan University of Technology, Iran, and his PhD from the Ohio State University in Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering.
Women in Agriculture Conference
April 13, 2018
"Keep Life Simple" is the theme of the annual Women in Agriculture Conference taking place in Sidney,   Nebraska, which will feature information and advice about simplicity and excellence, making meals with a multi-cooker, forage production, youth loans, farming with disabilities, and more.  The conference is intended to help women who are involved in agriculture improve their decision-making, increase understanding, and enhance their well-being in relation to their farm, ranch, or agriculture-related business.

Understanding Climate's Impact on Soil
April 23, 2018
The North Central Climate Collaborative (NC3) is hosting bimonthly webinars on climate, water, and agriculture. April's webinar will feature Anthony Bly, a Soil Field Specialist with SDSU Extension, who will discuss climate's impact on soil properties.
Science of Agriculture State Event
May 8, 2018
SDSU Extension will host the first annual Science of Agriculture state event on May 8, 2018 on the South Dakota State University campus in Brookings, South Dakota. Teams will present their 4-H Science of Agriculture projects, which will be evaluated and judged. Additionally, youth will have the opportunity to connect with representatives from South Dakota State University and the agribusiness community who are eager to meet the next generation of agricultural and science leaders.

National Working Waterfronts and Waterways Symposium 2018
May 14-17, 2018
Michigan Sea Grant is hosting the 5th National Working Waterfronts and Waterways Symposium in Grand Rapids, Michigan. By design, the triennial symposium travels the country to highlight the diversity of our nation's working waterfronts; to foster a cross-fertilization of ideas, knowledge, and solutions; and to generate strategic partnerships. The ultimate goal of the symposium, and the Network, is to increase the capacity of saltwater- and freshwater-based coastal communities and for stakeholders to make informed decisions, balance diverse uses, ensure access, and plan for the future of their working waterfronts.
The 16th Annual Climate Prediction Applications Science Workshop (CPASW) in Fargo, North Dakota brings together a diverse group of climate researchers, information producers, and users to share developments in the research and applications of climate predictions for societal decision-making.
Do you know of an upcoming water or conservation event in the Midwest? Email NCRWN here.
Funding and Other Opportunities
Understanding Wastewater Treatment Performance on Advanced Water Treatment Processes and Finished Water Quality
The Water Research Foundation (WRF) is currently funding research to investigate the impact of primary, secondary, and tertiary wastewater treatment on advanced water treatment (AWT) process selection and performance for potable reuse.  The maximum funding available for this project is  $300,000

Applications are due April 6, 2018, by 8 pm EST. Learn more.

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
SCBGP funds can be requested to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops (including floriculture). The funds can be used for marketing, promotion, research, food safety, nutrition, distribution, and best management practices to advance the specialty crop industry. 

Applications are due April 23, 2018, for Kansas and May 1, 2018, for South Dakota Learn more.

Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water
Humanity is reliant upon the physical resources and natural systems of the Earth for the provision of food, energy, and water (FEW). It is imperative that we determine how society can best integrate across the natural and built environments to provide a growing demand for food, water, and energy while maintaining appropriate ecosystem services. The overarching goal of INFEWS is to catalyze well-integrated interdisciplinary research to transform scientific understanding of the FEW nexus and improve system function and management, address system stress, increase resilience, and ensure sustainability. This interagency cooperation allows the partner agencies-National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA/NIFA)-to combine resources to identify and fund the most meritorious and highest-impact projects that support their respective missions. 

Applications are due September 26, 2018. 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 sponsor this series to highlight the best water-related research and Extension programming in the region. Webinars run for 60 minutes, with 30-minute project snapshots and 30 minutes of QA/peer-to-peer interaction.

Next Webinar:

April 11, 2018 at 2 pm CST, The Current 36: Water Use Efficiency
  • Jonathan Aguilar, Assistant Professor, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Kansas State University
  • Steve Miller, Irrigation Specialist, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Michigan State University
  • Xin Qiao, Assistant Professor, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Most Recent Webinar: 

Whether you're leading outreach and leadership programs or technological programming and support, evaluation is key to understanding impact and cultivating improvement. Last month's The Current webinar reviewed successful mixed methods evaluation techniques that integrate participants and community stakeholders to better meet audience needs.
  • Amber Saylor Mase, University of Wisconsin-Extension: Evaluating Wisconsin's Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast (RRAF)- Decision support for manure application in "America's Dairyland"
  • Scott Chazdon, University of Minnesota Extension: Documenting the Impacts of Collaborative Efforts: Ripple Effects Mapping
25th Annual Water Fest
South Dakota youth from 49 area schools had an opportunity to learn about water resource during the 25th Annual Sioux Empire Water Fest held March 13 and 14, 2018 on the campus of the University of Sioux Falls.  Learn more.

A positive outlook for corn
A strengthening trend in corn consumption, smaller corn acreage, and the developing production issues in South America signify a positive outlook for corn in 2018. The expectations for corn in the 2018 crop year put forth in this analysis show lower production leading to decreased ending stocks in 2018-19.  Learn more.

New online database helps Minnesota farmers share sustainable practices
You're a Minnesota farmer who cares about conservation, but the risks of veering from conventional farming feel great. How would new practices affect the bottom line? Have they worked on other similar farms? And besides what any research says, what do actual farmers think? A new online database will connect farmers with other farmers to share their experiences with sustainable farming methods. Learn more.

New study underscores value of farm conservation in Western Lake Erie Basin
Voluntary conservation practices adopted by farmers in the Western Lake Erie basin are having positive impacts downstream, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Learn more.

Study: Climate effects on ag yields  vary by location, crop
The global emergence of climate change should get farmers thinking and acting locally, according to nearly a half-century of data analyzed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  The new Nebraska study suggests that climate shifts between 1968 and 2013 drove about 25 percent of the collective fluctuations in corn, soybean and sorghum yields across the Great Plains. Learn more.
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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