We’ve been putting on the Iowa Water Conference in its current form for nearly a decade (2016 will be the 10th annual!). For the most part, we’ve got the successful conference formula down, but the conference planning committee is always looking to add in new elements to the conference to keep it relevant and fresh. In 2015, we had this idea: since the Iowa Water Conference brings together upwards of 400 water professionals, teachers, students and community members in one place, shouldn’t we find out what’s on their minds? And thus, the idea for a water resources priorities white paper was born.
At the end of the conference (after Neil Hamilton’s talk on the DMWW lawsuit), we invited people to stay for one final general session: a guided discussion on water resources in the state that would then be summarized into a white paper for distribution. Iowa Water Center Director Rick Cruse and the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities Director of Stormwater Services Pat Sauer led the discussion and took notes. Afterward, Dr. Cruse compiled the notes into a one page document that was then reviewed and edited by the conference committee and IWC’s Advisory Board. We’ve just started distribution of the document this month – starting with handing out copies at the Conservation Districts of Iowa Conference and a presentation to the Water Resources Coordinating Council last week.
The white paper is available on the Iowa Water Center website, and we recommend you read the entire thing. But in case you want the cliff notes version, here are some of the key points:
- There was a lack of call for greater investments of public money in Iowa’s natural resources- instead, stability of existing funding was repeatedly identified as imperative to successful and effective programs.
- Soil quality and soil management were highlighted as important to both urban and agricultural watersheds.
- The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was the most oft mentioned water quality topic, and attendees considered the establishment of goals and timelines, along with water monitoring, as vital to public acceptance of the strategy.
- Building partnerships and collaborating with one another was identified as critical to success. As an example, the most successful watershed projects have consistent coordinators that build partnerships among different stakeholders, broadening the circle of participants and resources with which to address problems.
- Education about soil and water related issues is a need in the state, both in the K-12 arena and for adults. It was suggested to have a statewide media campaign to raise watershed awareness.
The white paper gave us some insight to what’s important in the Iowa water landscape, but it also produces several questions. How can we address these priorities in an effective way? The document posted on the web provides five follow up questions. Continue the discussion. Use the questions as a discussion starter in your class, your family, with your legislator or watershed coordinator or neighbor. Then tell us what you come up with. We’re listening.