The latest water-related news and events
The latest water-related news and events
A monthly e-newsletter from the North Central Region Water Network
April 2021
Farm field in southern Wisconsin in March

Network News

Spring is officially here - in some places it feels like summer is already here! As we head into planting season and more in-person activities in a lot of areas, we hope you are able to take some time to connect with nature - whether that be in your field, in your clients fields, or at your favorite lake, stream or reservoir. 
While in-person extension programming is starting back up again in many places, we are continuing with our virtual water programming. Our climate, soil health and harmful algal bloom teams all have webinar series in addition to the Network's The Current webinar series which is now in its 7th year!
That said, we are as excited as you to get back outside and conduct safe in-person programming and activities - from team meetings and trainings to conferences. We look forward to seeing your smiling faces again - on Zoom and otherwise!
-Rebecca Power and Anne Nardi, the North Central Region Water Network team

P.S. Want your water questions answered by colleagues? Use the North Central Region Water Network listserv to get answers quickly. To subscribe, email
Photo by UW-Madison Division of Extension
Installation of Drainage Water Management system in Sac County, Iowa, on Donna and Chris Schafer farm. Installing outlet from water control structure to ag drainage ditch. Please Credit: NRCS/SWCS photo by Lynn Betts

The Current
From Research and Innovation to Implementation: Examples of Conservation Finance in Action
Wedensday, April 14, 2021 at 2pm CT

While the practice of conservation finance is far from new, there is a wide array of emerging research and innovative models for aligning conservation practice implementation with market-based mechanisms. But how do we translate this research and innovation into implementation? Tune in to this month's edition of The Current Webinar series as we explore three examples of conservation finance in practice - from incorporating conservation into ag leases to aggregating conservation drainage bids and public-private collaboration. Register here
NRCS/SWCS photo by Lynn Betts
Photo of rainfall driven run-off in the Red River Valley. Photo by Jason Vanbraey

Network Spotlight
Tackling nutrient reduction BMPs for cold climates: A case of the Red River Basin of the North

Nutrient reduction from agricultural sources through beneficial management practices, or BMPs, are a tenet of conservation and watershed management work. And while research questions remain, many agricultural BMPs are well known to reduce nutrient runoff and keep water and nutrients in-field. But what about in cold climates? Are the BMP recommendations the same? That was the key question of a workshop in the Red River Basin of the North (RRB) in April 2019, which was recently highlighted in the April edition of The Current webinar series. Read on
Photo by Jason Vanrobaeys
November Surprise Wild Rice Lake, Vilas County by Bob Kovar

Leadership Spotlight
Wisconsin Lake Districts Step Up to Fuel Watershed Restoration and Water Protection

Fifty years ago, Wisconsin researchers were wrapping up a statewide study exploring the economic potential of lake-based tourism to revitalize sagging rural economies. One slice of the research investigated the human institutions needed to ramp up and sustain lake care, as more lake-based tourism meant new environmental strains. Researchers warned that the current model of relying on citizen volunteers and fundraising for lake management could quickly become unsustainable and proposed a new form of local government called lake districts. In the legislative session following the study’s publication, Wisconsin passed a new lake management law that included enabling statutes for lake stakeholders to create inland lake protection and rehabilitation districts. Read on
Photo by Bob Kovar

In The News

Upcoming Events
Harmful Algal Blooms and  Public Health
May 5, 2021

Join the Algal Bloom Action Team for our upcoming webinar on Harmful Algal Blooms and Public Health. We will feature presentations from Victoria Christensen, Research Hydrologist with the USGS Upper Midwest Water Science Center and Virginia Roberts, Epidemiologist with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Discussion will focus on models to predict cyanotoxin mixtures that pose a human exposure risk and the CDC's One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System. Learn more

Water@UW Spring Symposium
May 7, 2021

This year the theme is Opportunities in a Changing World. During this symposium, attendees will learn about state-level action plans on climate change and PFAS, the power of the arts in improving water relations, and how state agencies and university researchers are tackling new questions at the intersections of water and COVID-19. As we confront the major issues of our time, this exceptional lineup of presenters will share about their work conducting research, enacting policy, and asking key questions. Anyone interested in these topics in Wisconsin and beyond is welcome. Learn more

Nebraska Extension Field Crop Scout Interactive Online Training
May 11, 2021

Nebraska Extension is conducting introductory-level field scout training online during a May 11 training session.The introductory training course is for summer employees working in the agricultural industry, as well as corn and soybean growers wanting to learn how to better manage corn and soybean pests. The training is designed for entry-level scouts who are working for crop consultants, industry agronomists or farm service centers in Nebraska and neighboring states. The training course is also ideal for growers who scout their own fields or are interested in improving productivity, as well as for students employed by agribusinesses. Past participants have consistently given our field scout training high marks and state that the knowledge gained improved their scouting skills. Some of the benefits registrants stated the training provided included practical/working knowledge and better accuracy in field scouting. Learn more

Meeting the Moment: The Urgency and Opportunity to Invest in Water Systems

May 14, 2021

Join The Value of Water for an event on Friday, May 14th at 11:00 AM ET / 8:00 AM PT hosted by the Value of Water Campaign as part of United for Infrastructure 2021. Hear from expert voices on the scale and scope of our water infrastructure challenges, the unprecedented $111 billion proposed by the Biden administration to make what would be a historic commitment to water infrastructure and a specific commitment to removing lead from water, and what this all could mean for job creation and the communities that water providers serve. Learn More

Funding and Opportunities

Agriculture and Food Research Intiative Competitive Grants Program
The AFRI Foundational and Applied Science Program supports grants in six AFRI priority areas to advance knowledge in both fundamental and applied sciences important to agriculture. The six priority areas are: Plant Health and Production and Plant Products; Animal Health and Production and Animal Products; Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health; Bioenergy, Natural Resources, and Environment; Agriculture Systems and Technology; and Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities. Research-only, extension-only, and integrated research, education and/or extension projects are solicited in this Request for Applications (RFA). NIFA will award approximately $10 million in competitive awards to support Cooperative Extension partnerships and collaborations with the USDA Climate Hubs. Learn more

Program Specialist Opening: Agricultural Research Service: Department of Agriculture
The Agriculture Research Service is seeking to hire a Program Specialist position with USDA-ARS in Ames, IA as Coordinator for the USDA Midwest Climate Hub. This position will help drive solutions to climate and agriculture issues in the Midwest. The Coordinator will work with partners across the federal government and with state and non-governmental agencies to develop and deliver climate information for agricultural stakeholders. Individuals with agriculture and/or climate background who seek to share information with stakeholders and develop strong partnerships in the region are encouraged to apply. 
Learn more

USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation On-Farm Grants 
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA is announcing the availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials) to stimulate the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with agricultural producers. For 2021, applications are accepted from eligible entities for projects addressing at least one of the following priorities: Irrigation Management Technologies; Climate Smart Agricultural Solutions; Management Technologies and Strategies; and Soil Health Demonstration Trial. Up to $25 million is available for On-Farm Trials in 2021. NRCS anticipates that at least $10 million of On-Farm Trials funding in 2021 will be awarded to entities applying for the Soil Health Demonstration Trial (SHD) component. On-Farm Trials projects may be between three and five years in duration. Applications must be submitted through the Programs Portal by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on June 21, 2021.
Learn more


Solving the nitrogen puzzle: Measuring groundwater pollution from agriculture -

For years its been relatively easy to measure pollution from, say, a factory. At a factory there might be just one pipe of waste to measure. Easy enough. But what about a farm? We might not typically think of farms as sources of pollution. But they can have big impacts on the land over time. Unlike at a factory, the waste filters slowly through soil across the whole plot of land. Read on

Coronavirus Economic Recovery to Drive Second-Highest CO2 Emissions Jump on Record - IEA Warns -
One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the record drop in greenhouse gas emissions following national lockdowns. But that drop is set to all but reverse as economies begin to recover, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned Tuesday. 
Overall energy demand is expected to rise 4.6 percent this year compared to 2020 and 0.5 percent compared to 2019, according to the IEA's Global Energy Review 2021. Read on

Researchers Find How Tiny Plastics Slip Through the Environment -

Washington State University researchers have shown the fundamental mechanisms that allow tiny pieces of plastic bags and foam packaging at the nanoscale to move through the environment. The researchers found that a silica surface such as sand has little effect on slowing down the movement of plastics, but that natural organic matter resulting from decomposition of plant and animal remains can either temporarily or permanently trap the nanoscale plastic particles, depending on the type of plastics. Read on

New Study Confirms Soil Health Benefits from Conservation Practices - South Dakota State University Extension

Researchers used X-Ray technology to confirm Soil Health benefits from conservation practices. "Soil pores have long been measured by a laborious process of wetting the soil at different pressures and measuring the change in water content to estimate groups of differing pore sizes. Only soil physicists could really understand the process and results. However, currently soils can be scanned with x-rays and computerized tomography, that can reveal the soil pores and their connectivity through stunning images that are easily understandable." - notes An
thony Bly and co-authors.
Read on

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