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October 2017 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
Impossible Tasks

I was in Biloxi, Mississippi for a meeting last month, just before Hurricane Nate. While I was disheartened to see images of floodwaters where I'd been walking just a week before, I was grateful the damage was not worse. At that meeting, we were addressing a challenge that seems nearly as impossible as keeping the Mississippi Sound at bay as hurricane force winds push the water inland: substantially reducing the hypoxic zone in that same body of water, while still producing food, housing, and other services important for human life on the land that funnels water to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to nutrient management challenges before us, the American Society of Civil Engineers most recent  Infrastructure Report Card tells us that funding gaps for water infrastructure from 2015-2025 include $105 billion for drinking water and wastewater, $15 billion for inland waterways and marine ports, $39.4 billion for dams, and $70 billion for levees. Total: nearly $340 billion. And if that's not enough, the stories we hear on the news are less about Herculean accomplishments, and more about clashes of the Titans.

Clearly, we are not the first people in history to face challenges that at times feel insurmountable. Before the internet and the expansion of retail therapy, we used great stories to comfort ourselves and gain insights on how to get through the seemingly impossible tasks in our lives. Consider Hercules, who had to complete the twelve labors - including killing a formidable lion, cleaning vast stables in a day (his solution was a precursor to today's manure management systems!), and stealing Zeus's golden apples. In these stories, "impossible tasks" often required super-human powers (like the strength of Hercules) or divine intervention. Others required mere mortal smarts and cleverness, such as carrying water in a sieve, filling an entire room with an object that can be bought with a single coin (solution: buy a candle, which fills the room with light), or sorting spilled lentils from the ashes of a cooking fire. But no matter what the "impossible task" may be, they all required a dogged commitment to getting the job done.

Which brings me to the potential upside of all this. News aside, in the Great Lakes, in the Mississippi River Basin, and in my local watershed, I see a marked willingness to compile accurate data about the water challenges we face, and to collaborate among farmers, ag industry representatives, watershed organizers, state and federal agency personnel, and others to find solutions that work for everyone. And while there are no guarantees that our current plans will work, it's the accurate and transparent information about performance that will give us the ability to collectively examine whether our efforts are succeeding, or if we are, like Sisyphus, continuing to push a boulder uphill only to have it roll back down again day after day. Hopefully we will have the courage to chart a new course if required.


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. 

Determining the GAPS in Youth Water Education in the North Central Region

Due to the global risk of the water crisis, a significant number of resources are being invested in improving water quality and protecting water resources locally and globally.  With the increasing demand of agriculture, urban growth, and climate change on water quality, effective water management is critical. Before water can be effectively managed we need a solid foundational knowledge of water resources, natural and anthropogenic influences, changing and emerging threats to water, and how local water issues affect world water supply. Evidence suggests that many Americans lack these foundational components. With water quality and water related issues being a world-wide issue, education of o ur future leaders is vital.
The youth working group of the North Central Region Water Network is committed to increasing water education and activities for today's youth. Without effective data on what programs and initiatives are currently in place throughout the region, collaboration and innovation lag. As such, the youth working group is conducting a comprehensive GAP analysis of the programs and initiatives educating youth in the region and comparing those to best-practices for effective water-related youth programing to make evidence-based recommendations for youth water education.  
The goal of this project is to:
  • Determine curriculum being used for youth water education being taught in the North Central Region by land grant universities and partners in the region
  • Identify curriculum that make youth knowledgeable, passionate and active in water related issues
  • Identify placed-based education
  • Find gaps in program/curriculum either by age, stewardship or engagement
Project Contact
Amy Timmerman
Project Director, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


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. 

Eastern South Dakota Water Conference

State and regional water conferences bringing stakeholders together to learn about various water related issues are a common occurrence.  One such conference, the Eastern South Dakota Water Conference, has been held for over ten years. This year's event, scheduled to take place on November 8, 2017, features a unique component.  A conversation between conference planning committee chair, David Kringen, and South Dakota NRCS State Conservationist, Jeff Zimpri ch, sparked the idea. Further work by the planning committee yielded the "Stakeholder Working Conference" format which will incorporate input from a diversity of stakeholder groups to develop an action plan for the future of South Dakota water resources.
The conference's morn i ng session will be similar to traditional conferences in that it will feature presentations o utlining the state of South Dakota water resources, data collection and monitoring efforts, a nd overview current research efforts and success stories. P osters featuring university research and private industry water projects will also be displayed throughout the day. The keynote speaker is Rebecca Perrin, EPA Region 8 Agricultural Advisor, who will share examples of successful collaborations that will help South Dakota stakeholders see the opportunities in collaboration. 

The afternoon session will feature stakeholders coming together for a moderated roundtable discussion to answer a series of challenging questions.  The discussion will start with defining the biggest challenges facing South Dakota's water resources.  Discussion will then turn to stakeholders characterizing what success looks like and reasonable goals for the future. To bridge the gap between current conditions and the picture of success, stakeholders will be asked to consider how to optimize current efforts and what action items they can take as individuals or a group to meet the previously defined goals. 

Following the conference, the South Dakota Water Resources Institute will publish a white paper outlining the state's needs and the action plan developed by conference participants. To ensure the plan serves all of South Dakota's interests, stakeholders from all industries and perspectives have been invited to participate in the conference. The action plan could impact the future direction of research, monitoring, and management of South Dakota's water resources, so it is critical all voices are incorporated.

The 2017 Eastern South Dakota Water Conference will jumpstart the discussion between the diverse stakeholder groups with water interests and complete the feedback loop to ensure that monitoring, research, implementation, and policy aligns with the needs of the state.
 John McMaine, South Dakota State University 
Dr. John McMaine is an assistant professor and extension water management engineer in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department at South Dakota State University and the South Dakota point of contact for the NCRWN.  

He received his PhD in Biosystems Engineering from Oklahoma State University.  He received BS and MS degrees in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering from the University of Kentucky.  His research and outreach interests center around agricultural and urban water management, water quality, and contaminant transport and fate. 

In his current role, he researches water management technologies that are environmentally and economically sustainable and provides guidance for South Dakotans to implement water management technology. In his spare time, he enjoys being active whether hiking or playing pickup basketball and traveling and experiencing new adventures.


Eastern South Dakota Water Conference
November, 8, 2017
The  Eastern South Dakota Water Conference is held on the campus of South Dakota State University and attracts attendees from academia and local, state, and federal agencies, among others. 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. Join us for a discussion on the current status of our water resources in eastern South Dakota and participate in the development of a cooperative action plan aimed at improving and protecting them. Learn more and Register.

Integrated Crop Management Conference
November 29-30, 2017
The Iowa State University Integrated Crop Management Conference brings together a diverse range of topics, slate of expert presenters and results of the latest university research. Drawing nearly 1,000 of the top crop production professionals from across Iowa and the midwest together for two days to learn, listen and share this is an event you won't want to miss.  The ICM Conference offers workshops focusing on the latest in crop production technology. Experts from Iowa and surrounding states will provide research updates and results in soil fertility, soil and water management, crop production and pest management. Learn more.

Soil and Water Conservation Society National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health
December 7-8, 2017
Whether you are contemplating cover crops for the first time, or you have years of experience and want to interact with soil health and cover crops innovators, this program will provide you with valuable information, networking, and learning opportunities.  This conference is intended for anyone interested in the practical use of cover crops and soil health improvement, including farmers, conservation agents, certified crop advisers (CCAs) and agribusiness staff, university, nongovernmental organization (NGO) personnel, and agency representatives.  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

Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) 
The purpose of the SCRI program is to address the critical needs of the specialty crop industry by awarding grants to support research and extension that addresses key challenges of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture, including conventional and organic food production systems. Projects must address at least one of five focus areas:
  • Research in plant breeding, genetics, genomics, and other methods to improve crop characteristics
  • Efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases, including threats to specialty crop pollinators
  • Efforts to improve production efficiency, handling and processing, productivity, and profitability over the long term (including specialty crop policy and marketing)
  • New innovations and technology, including improved mechanization and technologies that delay or inhibit ripening
  • Methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control, and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production efficiency, handling and processing of specialty crops.
Application are due by December 8, 2017. Learn more.

Community Food Projects (CFP) Competitive Grants Program
In FY 2018, NIFA's CFP intends to solicit applications and fund two types of grants. The types are entitled (1) Community Food Projects (CFP) and (2) Planning Projects (PP). The primary goals of the CFP are to: Meet the food needs of low-income individuals through food distribution, community outreach to assist in participation in Federally assisted nutrition programs, or improving access to food as part of a comprehensive service; Increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for the food needs of communities; Promote comprehensive responses to local food access, farm, and nutrition issues; and Meet specific state, local or neighborhood food and agricultural needs including needs relating to: Equipment necessary for the efficient operation of a project; Planning for long-term solutions; or The creation of innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers.

Applications are due by December 4, 2017.  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.


November 8, 2017, 2-3 p.m. CST/ 3-4 p.m. EST - The Current 33: Conservation Practice Tracking for the Mississippi River Basin

November's The Current Webinar will give an overview of conservation and water quality tracking across the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB). Discussion will focus on the overall need for tracking and what is being done on the state and regional level. The goal is to add power to the conservation story by showing the combined impact of all of our efforts.
  • Katie Flahive, Agricultural Engineer, Clean Water Act Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Julie Harrold, Program Manager Water Quality Initiatives, Division of Soil Conservation, Indiana State Department of Agriculture
  • Reid D. Christianson, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Past Webinars: 

October 11, 2017 - The Current 32: Next Generation Extension
  • Alan Pilkenton, Educational Media Coordinator, Michigan State University Extension Children and Youth Institute
  • Deb Weitzenkamp, Extension Educator, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Kimmel Education and Research Center


Insect Allies: How the Enemies of Corn May Someday Save It
Scientists from The Ohio State University and partner institutions are using cutting-edge technologies from three scientific fields and combining them to provide an insect-delivered antidote, of sorts, to whatever ails a growing plant, from disease to drought.  Dubbed  "Insect Allies"  the project is being supported by a $10 million cooperative agreement with the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  Learn more.

Extension farmer training helps keep Minneapolis Schools meals safe
Minneapolis Public Schools is committed to providing fresh, locally grown farm fruits and vegetables to serve students through its Farm-to-School program.   Its collaboration with University of Minnesota Extension helps make it possible.   Learn more.

3-D crop imaging helps agriculture estimate plant height
Building three-dimensional point clouds from high-resolution photos taken from unmanned aerial vehicles or drones may soon help plant breeders and agronomists save time and money compared with measuring crops manually.  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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