Breaking down the Waters of the US

Submitted by Solomon Worlds, Iowa Water Center Science Communication Intern

Note: This post, and the referenced Riessen article, was written prior to the release of the Executive Order issues on WOTUS. The EO can be found here.

Hello Readership,

Recently, there has been a great deal of commotion around a recurring Supreme Court case that has yet to be ruled on. This legal battle is just another in the long line of battles over a famous piece of legislation we know as the Clean Water Act (CWA). This most recent battle is over the “Waters of the US rule” (WOTUS) definition that was made by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers in June of 2015. Immediately after the decision was made, many legislators and officials (including our Iowa governor and two federal senators) voiced their opposition.

Some say that the federal government is overstepping their bounds. They say the federal government does not have jurisdiction over some of the WOTUS and that the June 2015 definition is either too broad or too vague. However, is there real constitutional precedent to halt the federal government’s involvement? What is actually in the CWA? Since this fight has made it to back the Supreme Court, what is different? And, what were the decisions of previous hearings? What will be the outcome of this rendition?

Jack Riessen, P.E., retired Iowa Department of Natural Resources employee and former advisory board member for the Iowa Water Center, wrote a short informative report in January 2017 that answers all of my above questions and probably a few others that you may have thought of. His well-written article carefully gives a brief history of the CWA fight by outlining the events of the past that have gotten us to where we are now. This enlightening review is written to appeal to those who do and those who do not know a lot about water, making it accessible for everyone. Click here to read Riessen’s full piece.

Flow forward my friends,

Solomon Furious Worlds

P.S.: In my first post, I promised more information on my name. My father wanted my middle name to start with an “F.” It was almost “Francis,” but there was a character from a popular 1991 film featured a character whose name was “Jason ‘Furious’ Styles.”

Get to know Alert Iowa

Post submitted by Samantha Brear, Alert Iowa Mass Notification System Program Manager and State E911 Program Planner at Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Alert Iowa is a statewide mass notification and emergency messaging system. The system can be used by state and local authorities to quickly disseminate emergency information to residents in counties that utilize the system. The system is available, free of charge, to all counties. Eighty-four of Iowa’s 99 counties are using the Alert Iowa system.

AlertIowaMap.JPGAlert Iowa allows citizens to sign up for the types of alerts they would like to receive. Types of alerts may include evacuation orders, boil order notifications, and other local safety information messages. The best way to receive messages is via text message.  However, users can also opt for a voice call and an email.

The system interacts with National Weather Service notifications.  When the National Weather Service issues weather alerts, such as Flash Flood Warnings and Tornado Warnings the system sends these alerts automatically to members of the public who have opted in to receive them.

The map shows the counties that are utilizing the Alert Iowa system. Citizens can sign up to receive alerts on their county’s registration page. If they choose, they can sign up to receive alerts in multiple counties.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are another type of emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through mobile carriers. WEA messages include a special tone and vibration, which are repeated twice, followed by the WEA, which will look like a text message. The WEA message will show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert. The National Weather Service can send out Flash Flood Warnings, Tornado Warnings, and Amber Alerts while Iowa Homeland Security can send out Civil Emergency Warnings to every smart phone within a specified threat area. Wireless Emergency Alert service is offered as a free service by wireless carriers.  Citizens do not need to sign up for this service.

Alert Iowa and Wireless Emergency Alerts are only two of the ways citizens can receive emergency alerts. Other sources include NOAA Weather Radio, news broadcasts, the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV programs, outdoor sirens and phone apps.

Please visit http://www.homelandsecurity.iowa.gov/about_HSEMD/alert_iowa.html for more information and how to sign up!

Iowa State University Research Farms Utilize Conservation Practices for Science, Stewardship

Story originally appeared on the Iowa State University College of Agriculture & Life Sciences website

Iowa State University’s 13 Research and Demonstration Farms around the state have served for decades as models of agricultural and scientific progress for Iowa’s farmers and landowners.

The same holds true for the goals of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

For years the university’s agricultural researchers have used the farms to study and demonstrate the effects of conservation practices to preserve water quality, keep soils productive and improve the environment. The work has been conducted on acres devoted to research and those not currently in research plots but devoted to producing crops or sustaining livestock.

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Angie Rieck-Hinz talks with farmers about the benefits of different types of cover crops at a field day at the Northern Research and Demonstration Farm.

The ISU research farms strive to serve as models of stewardship by implementing practices on fields, field edges and streamside borders. By practicing what they preach, these farms inspire visitors to do the same.

Matt Schnabel, the superintendent at ISU’s Northern Research Farm near Kanawha, said the farm serves as a model for neighboring farmers.

Cover crops

“The majority of our fields without trials are planted with cover crops. We also have planted milkweed for monarch butterfly conservation and for pollinator habitat,” said Schnabel, a 2010 graduate of ISU in agricultural systems technology. “All these practices add benefits to the land, environment and cropping system. Installing and utilizing these practices on our research farm allows farmers to see things first-hand before implementing on their own farms. We act as a guinea pig and show them what they can do on their land.”

Schnabel said he’d like to put more acres into habitat, reduced tillage, and add saturated buffers. Saturated buffers reduce the movement of nutrients by diverting a portion of tile flow into shallow groundwater. This raises the water table of the buffer and allows organic matter to remove nitrate before the water enters an adjacent stream.

Cover crops are one practice outlined in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy to reduce nitrate leaching from fields. Additionally, cover crops are beneficial to agricultural systems by increasing soil organic matter. Ames-area ISU farms have been using oats, radishes or winter rye as cover crops.

Tim Goode, manager for ISU Research and Demonstration Farms and the Committee for Agricultural Development, a nonprofit affiliated university organization, said that in the last year 800 acres of cover crops were planted on research farms and other acres of cropland. Besides cover crops, the research farms use an array of 18 other nutrient management practices from the strategy, including wetlands, extended rotations and runoff retention.

“The research farms use a broad range of nutrient management practices,” Goode said. “In the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, the Iowa State-led science assessment team lists many research-proven practices to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous losses. Each of these practices have been studied and then implemented multiple times on ISU-managed farmland, either in the Ames area or on farms around the state.”

Long-term projects at the Northeast research farm

The ISU research farm near Nashua celebrated its 40th anniversary last year and has been a long-term example of water quality and conservation success, thanks to a university, local group and agribusiness partnership. The Nashua research farm has been the site of dozens water quality research projects and many field days to show off the results.

The Nashua farm has implemented and maintained many conservation practices, including cover crops, buffers and bioreactors. Its water quality plots — each drained by a separate tile drainage line in a long-term monitoring project — was initiated in 1988, with funding from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The farm also installed an early version of a bioreactor, an edge-of-field conservation practice that removes tile flow nitrates by way of denitrification through a woodchip basin underground. The next generation of bioreactor research is closer to campus near Boone at the Agricultural Engineering/Agronomy Research Farm. At this site, scientists monitor nine experimental bioreactors which are being tested for various tile drainage volumes and fill materials with funding provided by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center.

In the coming year, the next installation of water quality projects will be completed by ISU partnering with Committee for Agricultural Development, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Big Creek Watershed Protection Project and the Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District on a university-managed farm near Madrid. At this location, a series of three conservation practices will be installed to reduce the nutrient load entering Big Creek:  saturated buffers, an oxbow wetland and a double-barreled bioreactor. Each of these conservation practices has been outlined in the strategy as effective edge-of-field nutrient management tools.

“Many research and educational needs, demands, uses and decisions impact how ISU-managed land is used annually. But overall, ISU is strongly committed to managing farmland and implementing practices in a manner that supports land stewardship over the long term,” Goode said.

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science and technology-based framework to assess and reduce nutrients to Iowa waters and the Gulf of Mexico. It is designed to direct efforts to reduce nutrients in surface water from both point and nonpoint sources in a scientific, reasonable and cost effective manner.

Conservation/Nutrient Management Practices by farm

Agricultural Engineering/Agronomy Research Farm near Boone

  • Wetlands
  • Buffers
  • Runoff retention
  • Oat and winter rye cover crops
  • Perennial energy crops
  • Strip tillage
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Extended rotations with alfalfa
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer
  • N fertilizer inhibitor

Allee Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm near Newell

  • Winter rye cover crops
  • Perennial energy crops
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer
  • N fertilizer inhibitor

Armstrong Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm near Lewis

  • Wetlands
  • Winter rye cover crops
  • Buffers
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Extended rotations with alfalfa
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer

Central Iowa Research and Demonstration Farms near Ames

  • Wetlands
  • Bioreactor
  • Oat and radish cover crops
  • Buffers
  • Perennial energy crops
  • Strip tillage
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Extended rotations with alfalfa
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer

Horticulture Research Station near Ames

  • Winter rye cover crop
  • Terraces
  • Runoff retention
  • Perennial crops
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation

McNay Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm near Chariton

  • Oat and winter rye cover crops
  • Extended rotation of alfalfa
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Extended rotations with grass and alfalfa
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer

Muscatine Island Research and Demonstration Farm near Fruitland

  • Winter rye cover crops
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer
  • Strip tillage

Neely-Kinyon Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm near Greenfield

  • Winter rye cover crops
  • Buffers
  • Extended rotations with alfalfa
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer

Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm near Nashua

  • Bioreactors
  • Winter rye cover crops
  • Buffers
  • Extended rotations with alfalfa
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer
  • Strip tillage

Northern Research and Demonstration Farm near Kanawha

  • Extended rotations with alfalfa
  • Oat and winter rye cover crops
  • Buffers
  • Strip Tillage
  • Controlled drainage
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer

Northwest Research and Demonstration Farm near Sutherland

  • Winter rye cover crops
  • Buffers
  • Extended rotations with alfalfa
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer

Southeast Research and Demonstration Farm near Crawfordsville

  • Buffers
  • Extended rotation of alfalfa
  • Strip Tillage
  • Wetlands
  • Controlled drainage
  • Extended rotations with alfalfa
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer
  • Perennial energy crops

Western Research and Demonstration Farm near Castana

  • Buffers
  • Terraces
  • Runoff retention
  • Winter rye cover crops
  • Extended rotations with alfalfa
  • Fertilizer rates based on soil testing
  • Phosphorus fertilizer and manure incorporation
  • Managed timing and rates of N fertilizer
Contacts:

Tim Goode, Iowa State Research Farms, 641-751-0280, trgoode@iastate.edu
Matt Schnabel, ISU Northern Research Farm, 507-923-5368, mschn@iastate.edu
Dana Woolley, Iowa Nutrient Research Center, 515-294-5905, dwoolley@iastate.edu

Podcast spotlights a pioneer of precision conservation

Post originally appeared on the Iowa Learning Farms website by Ann Staudt

Precision agriculture is a unique, emerging field, and it is certainly one that is rapidly evolving before our very eyes. The complex world of remote sensing, big data, ag informatics, statistics, and on-the-ground farm management means there’s a whole lot of data out there … how do we make sense of it all?

Meet Dr. Amy Kaleita. High energy, eternal optimist. Agricultural engineer. Lover of learning. Passionate teacher and researcher. Soil Whisperer (or some might say Soil Listener).

conservationchat-kaleitaangle

Kaleita’s work at Iowa State University is truly at the intersection of conservation, information technology, and the world of precision agriculture. While precision ag technology is commonly used by farmers and crop consultants across the state of Iowa today in such applications as nutrient management (variable rate technology) and precision seed placement, Kaleita is on the forefront of the next generation of precision ag – precision conservation. Kaleita’s research efforts range from studying different sensor technologies, including both embedded [contact] sensors, such as in-the-ground soil moisture sensors, as well as non-contact sensors [data collected from drones], to optimizing the layering of those different technologies to obtain the best data sets possible.

However, collecting the data is just the start —  the real challenge emerges in sorting through huge amounts of data and trying to make sense of it all!  Which is just where Kaleita comes into play, evaluating and analyzing the vast amounts of data collected in the field. She strives to identify patterns and linkages that can help us better understand the relationships between such factors as crop yield variability, precipitation, soil moisture, hydrology, transport of dissolved contaminants (such as nitrate-nitrogen), and on-the-ground conservation practices. As Kaleita puts it, a big part of her job is trying to “understand uncertainty.”

She goes on to explain, “In an agricultural context, there are so many sources of unexplained variability … things that you do on the landscape that cause results, but they cause different responses under different conditions, and so how do those conditions change over time and space?

“The soil is very different, and it changes over time, and it certainly changes over space. The rain, and the air temperature, and the wind speed, and all of that stuff cause responses in the crop and they cause the interaction between the crop and the soil to change. And so [we’re] trying to understand all of the things that cause those differences, and then trying to design systems that can be responsive to that variability.”

Tune in to Episode 27 of the Conservation Chat for more of this fascinating conversation with Dr. Amy Kaleita!  You can also download or listen to any of the previous podcast episodes on the Conservation Chat website and on iTunes.

Winter Weather in Iowa

Post submitted by Jeff Zogg, Senior Service Hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Des Moines

This winter, we have experienced a mix of snow, rain, sunshine, and even warm temperatures. With this variability across the state, it is important to document what we’ve evidenced so far and to anticipate the weather to come over the upcoming months. Below is a brief overview of the recent, current, and anticipated weather and water conditions for Iowa.

The past 30 days have featured warm and wet conditions across the Iowa region.  Average temperatures have been 3 to 6 degrees above normal.  Precipitation has been 200 percent or more of normal levels across much of the state.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, as of January 19th, stream flows across Iowa have been above to much above normal.  According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, soil moisture was above to much above normal across much of the state—with near-record high values for this time of year across far northern and northeastern Iowa.  In contrast, the Drought Monitor stated that abnormally dry conditions existed across southeastern Iowa.

The latest outlook for February calls for equal chances of near, above or below normal temperatures for the state—which means that all three outcomes are equally possible. The normal statewide average temperature for Iowa during the month of February is 24.6 degrees. Aside from a wet signal across far eastern Iowa, there are also equal chances of near, above or below normal precipitation levels across the state.  The normal statewide average precipitation for Iowa at this time of year is 1.1 inches.

For February through April, there are also equal chances of near, above or below normal temperature (statewide normal average is 36.8 degrees).  A wet signal is indicated across the northeast quarter of the state for precipitation, with equal chances elsewhere.  The seasonal drought outlook calls for no change to the abnormally dry conditions evident across the southeastern portions of the state. The normal average precipitation at the statewide level at this time is 6.7 inches.

The National Weather Service will release two spring flood outlooks this season.  They are scheduled for February 16th and March 2nd.  Both outlooks will be released by 5pm each day and will be available on the NWS Des Moines Website at http://www.weather.gov/desmoines.

Follow NWS Des Moines on social media for the latest information

Villarini Receives AGU Macelwane Medal

Macelwane_2-e1482268464153-369x600.jpg
IIHR’s Gabriele Villarini recently received the American Geophysical Union’s James B Macelwane Medal, which honors young researchers

Story originally appeared on the IIHR Hydroscience & Engineering website

When Gabriele Villarini heard the news that he had been chosen to receive the American Geophysical Union’s James B. Macelwane Medal, this normally unflappable researcher got pretty excited.

“I was in such a daze!” he remembers. The associate professor in civil and environmental engineering and IIHR associate research engineer was thrilled to receive the honor, presented each year to only 3–5 young researchers selected from the AGU’s 60,000+ members. AGU scientists study everything from the center of the Earth up to space—and everything in between.

“It’s highly competitive, very selective, and it really is a great honor,” Villarini says. “You always wish it would happen one day, but there is no guarantee. Especially given that there are so many brilliant scientists out there in so many different disciplines.”

Iowa Flood Center (IFC) Director Witold Krajewski, who served as Villarini’s PhD advisor and now works with him as part of the IFC, agrees. “This is a big time award,” Krajewski says. “Very few hydrologists have received it in the past and those who did followed up with distinguished careers. I feel very fortunate to have Gabriele first as a student and now as a colleague. We all should be proud of his accomplishments.”

The AGU selects the Macelwane Medalists based on their significant contributions to the geophysical sciences as outstanding early career scientists. Villarini and the other medalists was celebrated at the annual Honors Ceremony and Banquet held during the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco. In addition, Villarini submitted an abstract for the “New Generation of Scientists” Union session during the AGU Fall Meeting.

Villarini says he is humbled to receive the medal, which he considers the most meaningful accomplishment of his career so far. “I would probably say it’s humbling,” he says. “It’s not just an award for me—it’s bigger. It wouldn’t have happened without the support of a number of people.”

He adds, “Obviously my family played a critical role—both my family in Italy and my family here.” He plans to attend the awards ceremony with his wife, Amie. “She has given me endless support, and I wanted her to be there with me when I received it,” he says.

Water Resources Research National Competitive Grants Program Now Open

The 104(g) National Competitive Grants program is one of three grant programs administered annually by the Iowa Water Center in coordination with the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR).

Funding alert! The National Institutes for Water Resources, in conjunction with the US Geological Survey, has issued their call for proposals for the 2017 104(g) National Competitive Grants program.

Here’s the scoop…

Proposal URL (<——CLICK ME!)

Due Date: Preproposals are due February 15, 2017 **PREPROPOSAL PROCESS IS NEW THIS YEAR**

Submit to: State Water Institute or Center (psst…that’s us – email to hbates@iastate.edu)

Award maximum and duration: 1-3 years, $250,000 maximum. 1:1 match. NO INDIRECT COSTS.

Scope: Proposals must focus on “water problems and issues of a regional or interstate nature.” Collaboration between organizations and agencies (particularly USGS) are highly encouraged; USGS partnerships receive extra weight in evaluation.

2017 Priorities:

  • Evaluation of innovative approaches to water treatment, infrastructure design, retrofitting, maintenance, management and replacement.
  • Exploration and advancement of our understanding of changes in the quantity and quality of water resources in response to a changing climate, population shifts, and land use changes; including associated economic, environmental, social, and/or infrastructure costs.
  • Development of methods for better estimation of water supply, both surface and groundwater, including estimation of the physical and/or economic supply of water.
  • Development and evaluation of processes and governance mechanisms for integrated surface/ground water management.
  • Evaluation and assessment of the effects of water conservation practices, as well as adoption, penetration and permanence.

Other interesting information:

This competition has moved to a preproposal process for 2017. You send us your preproposal by February 15 at 4 p.m., and we send it on to the review committee. This deadline is a real thing. If the receipt on the email is past this time, we cannot forward your preproposal.

The previous application system (NIWR.net) will NOT be used in either the preproposal or full proposal submission process.

Indirect costs (IDC) are not allowed in the federal portion of the budget, but you can (and should) claim the IDCs you would have gotten if they were allowed as matching funds (see Section VIII.E. of the proposal; let us know if you have questions).

If you are a researcher at Iowa State University, a goldsheet is not required to submit a preproposal. 

We would be delighted to discuss potential projects as you write your preproposal.