Caring for Creation & Sister Water

Submitted by Emilia Sautter, Ecospirituality Coordinator at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center. Post originally appeared in the Prairiewoods’ Newsletter

Caring for Sister Water was one of many creation care efforts that came with the founding of Prairiewoods 20 years ago. These efforts included two infiltration ponds that hold much of the water that runs off our parking lots and roadways, as well as numerous trees and plants with extensive root systems that hold and cleanse water. After the Cedar Rapids floods of 2008, we doubled our efforts to address storm water concerns— we installed permeable pavers, hosted rain barrel classes and identified four storm water culverts that drain on our land. Varying degrees of erosion meant that all four of these culvert areas needed attention.

The first project—the North Culvert—was addressed in the fall of 2013. We built a series of rock check dams to help slow storm water, reducing the erosion that was degrading the area.

The East Culvert, the largest culvert on our property, recently was completed, thanks to generous grants from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation and Rockwell Collins. This culvert has a drainage area of about 73 acres, meaning that water from more than 70 acres drains onto our land through this storm water culvert. The water then flows into Dry Creek and eventually into the Indian Creek and Cedar River Watersheds. (The Cedar River Watershed includes Hiawatha, Cedar Rapids and a number of other communities. It is what flooded in 2008.) Over the years, rain events and impervious surfaces (such as roads, driveways and turf grass) have forced large amounts of fast moving water through this culvert, degrading the culvert and resulting in severe stream bank erosion.

Why do we care? Erosion means soil loss, soil loss leads to sedimentation in the water, and sedimentation (the number one cause of water pollution in Iowa) leads to reduced water quality (1). Soil is the foundation of our entire food system, and without it we humans could not live. The health of Sister Water is a direct reflection of our own health, as our bodies are about 60% water.

During the East Culvert Project, we reshaped the eroded banks to allow water to spread out. We also re-seeded the banks with vegetation that better holds the soil. We removed some trees to allow more light in to help the vegetation thrive.

One way to help Sister Water is to move away from systems that force water into our waterways, since this leads to flooding and water pollution. Sister Water wants to move more slowly, at her own pace, nourishing flora and fauna as she infiltrates back into Earth. At Prairiewoods, we want to help her as best we can.

Thanks to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation and Rockwell Collins, we are offering free educational classes as part of our East Culvert Project. Join us for EarthFriendly Lawn Care on Sept. 29 (see p. 9 for details) or for upcoming Rain Barrel Classes (see our website for details). Visit  www.IowaStormWater.org to learn what you can do with your own lawn.  And if you are a Cedar Rapids resident, visit  www.Cedar-Rapids.org to learn how you can get reimbursed for up to 50% of storm water retention projects on your property

(1) Statistic is regarding the source of surface water pollution by volume in Iowa. Source: https://www.polkcountyiowa.gov/conservation/education/nature-in-iowa/water-quality/.

Planning for Watershed Success in Eastern Iowa

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Attendees of the Indian Creek Watershed open house discussing the map of the watershed. Photo from the Indian Creek Watershed Facebook page.

Post edited by Hanna Bates, Program Assistant at the Iowa Water Center

This week, we chatted with Jennifer Fencl, the Solid Waste & Environmental Services Director at The East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG). Fencl works to bring eastern Iowa stakeholders together to better manage their natural resources and to create a long-term investment in their community. Below are a few highlights from our conversation that outlines some of the behind-the-scenes work in watershed planning.

Please describe your work in watershed management in Iowa.

The East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG) became involved in watershed management in 2011 when the City of Marion requested assistance in applying for Watershed Management Authority Formation grant funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) for the Indian Creek watershed. The Indian Creek Watershed Management Authority (ICWMA) was formed under Iowa Code 28E and 466B in August 2012 with 6 of the 7 eligible jurisdictions agreeing to plan for improvements on a watershed level. Funds were made available in 2013 by the IEDA to complete watershed management plans to address flood risk mitigation and water quality. The ICWMA received one of the three planning grants and engaged in a multi-jurisdictional planning approach facilitated by ECICOG in partnership with several local, state, and federal agencies. The resulting Indian Creek Watershed Management Plan (ICWM Plan) identifies strategies and recommendations for stormwater management and water quality protection, including specific implementation activities and milestones. The ICWM Plan was completed and presented to the public in June 2015 and adopted by all six of the ICWMA members at policy maker meetings during July and August of 2015.

As the ICWMA Plan was wrapping up, the City of Coralville requested ECICOG’s assistance in forming a WMA for the Clear Creek watershed. In this case, Coralville was willing to sponsor the WMA formation and planning grant application services. The Clear Creek Watershed Coalition (CCWC) formed as a WMA under Iowa Code 28E and 466B in October 2015 with all 9 of the eligible jurisdictions joining. ECICOG secured DNR watershed planning funds early in 2016 and the CCWC is mid-way through their planning process. Fortunately, the Clear Creek watershed was one of the eight watersheds selected for the Iowa Watershed Approach HUD grant project. The additional watershed planning funds from the HUD grant will add significantly to the resulting watershed plan.

In early 2016, the Middle Cedar Watershed Management Authority (MCWMA) was on its way to formally becoming a WMA and needed some help in completing the agreement filing, developing by-laws, and organizing the Board of Directors. ECICOG assisted the MCWMA in forming under Iowa Code 28E and 466B in June 2016 with 25 of the 65 eligible jurisdictions joining. The MCWMA is one of the eight watersheds selected for the Iowa Watershed Approach HUD grant project.

What are the challenges and rewards in doing work with watershed management?

One challenge that became clear in the Indian Creek process was the disconnect between the watershed (technical) assessment and the local stakeholders. That gap must be bridged to develop meaningful, locally-based goals and implementation strategies.  For me, the reward is watching the interaction between perceived “enemies” (urban/rural; big city/suburb; ag producer/government type) and bringing skeptical people into the process to develop an actual plan… that they ultimately agree to.

What kinds of stakeholders are involved in developing a watershed management plan?

It is critical to include the local Soil and Water Conservation District, government representatives, and the landowners (both urban & rural, flood impacted if possible) in developing goals and strategies. I believe that it is also important to identify the ‘experts’ in your watershed, both locally and from state agencies, early on and have them provide input on what assessment activities and planning services are really needed from an outside consultant. There is a role for everyone to play.

What are the basic steps in putting together a watershed management plan?

Here is my road map:

  1. Invite participation
  2. Identify resource concerns
  3. Assemble experts
  4. Complete assessment work
  5. Present the assessment to a broad list of stakeholders (need good interpreters)
  6. Develop goals, define implementation strategies, and prioritize the strategies
  7. Compile the plan and present the plan for comment
  8. Shop the plan for formal adoption by policy making board/councils.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to those wanting to develop a watershed plan for their community?

Run… kidding, sorta.  Seek help from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship basin coordinators first, and then gauge the interest of the other entities in the watershed. You need to find some champions to help smooth the way for local elected officials.

Introducing the Iowa Watershed Approach

Post originally appeared on the Iowa Learning Farms website

Today’s guest post was provided by Adam Wilke ISU Extension and Outreach Water Specialist.

The Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) is a new five-year project focused on addressing factors associated with flood disasters in the state of Iowa. The IWA project will also provide benefits of improved water quality by implementing conservation practices outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

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Assessing Cedar River flood waters, September 2016. Photo courtesy Brian Powers/DSM Register

The “HUD Project,” as it is commonly referred, was awarded $96.9 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The National Disaster Resilience Competition provided $1 billion to communities that have experienced recent significant natural disasters, including Iowa’s three flood-related Presidential Disaster Declarations in 2013. Iowans remember the devastating floods of 2008 and 1993, and some are still working to repair damage from September 2016 flooding.

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Map of the Iowa Watershed Approach. Courtesy of Iowa Flood Center.

The IWA focuses on nine watersheds throughout the state, representing varying soil types, topographic regions, and land uses. These watersheds were prioritized as regions that have been most impacted and distressed from previous flood events and have unmet recovery needs. The IWA is a vision for both rural and urban resilience, and three cities (Storm Lake, Coralville, and Dubuque) are priority areas for the project.

Previous efforts to address flooding impacts were piloted through the Iowa Watersheds Project in five watersheds throughout the state in 2010. By 2016, over 65 constructed practices—such as ponds, wetlands, and terraces—have been completed.

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Road damage from Cedar River flood, June 2008. Courtesy Iowa Dept. of Transportation

The theme of year one is “The Iowa Watershed Approach: A Visions for Iowa’s Future Under Changing Hydrologic Conditions.” Climate science indicates that annual average precipitation in Iowa has trended upward over the last 100 years and extreme precipitation events (more than 1.25 inches per day) have increased throughout the state. University of Iowa research of 774 U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges found an upward trend in frequency of flooding throughout the Central U.S. over the past 50 years. This has contributed to crop loss and destruction of infrastructure, such as homes, roads, and bridges.

The IWA will work to achieve six specific outcomes:

  1. Reduce flood risk
  2. Improve water quality
  3. Increase flood resilience
  4. Engage stakeholders through collaboration and outreach/education
  5. Improve quality of life and health, especially for susceptible populations
  6. Develop a program that is scalable and replicable throughout the Midwest and the United States

The IWA focuses on innovative in-field and edge-of-field practices to reduce flood potential and decrease nutrient concentration in surface water. The practices include:

• Wetland Construction                              • Farm Ponds
• Storm Water Detention Basins              • Terraces
• Sediment Detention Basins                    • Floodplain Restoration
• Channel Bank Stabilization                    • Buffer Strips
• Saturated Buffers                                       • Perennial Cover
• Oxbow Restoration                                     • Bioreactors
• Prairie STRIPS

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Courtesy ISU Extension and Outreach. 

The IWA project creates Watershed Management Authorities (WMA) and these organizations allow for a broad range of stakeholders—including scientists, state agencies, counties, municipalities, farmers, and citizens—to organize and work towards the common goals of flood reduction and water quality improvement. Some watersheds, such as the Middle Cedar, have established WMAs, while others are beginning the formation process.

Stream gauges will provide data for the Iowa Flood Center to conduct hydrological assessments in each watershed and allow researchers to assess risks associated with flooding and water quality, including developing and evaluating future scenarios to maximize results from project resources.

WMA will use these findings to best select eligible subwatersheds at the HUC 12 (Hydrologic Unit Code) scale and prioritize implementation of constructed projects. Stakeholder inputs, watershed plans, and hydrological assessments will guide the WMAs in selecting the most beneficial practices and appropriate locations.

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Courtesy ISU Extension and Outreach.

This project combines the strengths and efforts of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and the Daily Erosion Project by the Iowa Water Center to achieve these goals. The IWA is a new way to think about the movement of water across the Iowa landscape. One of the most important pieces of completing such a large and complicated project is to ensure stakeholder engagement throughout the project. We look forward to hearing your questions, thoughts, and concerns as we all seek the common goal of reducing flood disaster and ensuring water quality for generations to come.

–Adam Wilke

People are asking about the 2017 Iowa Water Conference…

… and we have answers!

Written by Melissa Miller, Associate Director of the Iowa Water Center

It’s that time of year again. Everywhere I go, I get questions about the Iowa Water Conference. Here are a few of the recurring questions:

What’s the theme this year?

Watershed Management: Partnerships for Progress

 Is the agenda filled up?

You bet – chock full. We’re going to release it as soon as we’ve fine-tuned the last few details.

 Can I still submit abstracts?

We do have ONE track that we’ve left unfilled on purpose. The Current Research track will have an open call this January. We plan for this track to have nine 30-minute spots available. Keep an eye open for that call – it won’t last very long, as we’ve had a lot of interest! If you don’t get selected, we certainly encourage you to submit a poster.

And my favorite question to answer: What’s new for 2017?

 Last year is going to be hard to top, but we’re trying. The conference committee carefully considers your comments and evaluations each year and makes little tweaks here and there. Some highlights from 2017 to look forward to:

-The addition of the Iowa Chapter of the American Fisheries Society to the conference. We have several fisheries related talks that will appear in the main conference program, as well as a special track that will serve as their regular spring conference.

-Bringing back the evening reception. We will host a networking social hour on Wednesday evening in Scheman featuring an exhibit titled, “River Stories: Views from a Watershed.” This is a photo exhibit detailing stories created by women farmland owners in the Raccoon and Des Moines River valleys.

-A time for panel presentations. To cap off the first day breakout sessions, we will have a full hour for four concurrent panel presentations to encourage discussion and collaborative thinking.

-Optional workshop: Prairie STRIPS. The STRIPS team is working on developing a two-hour workshop on implementing this beautiful and effective water management practice.

Spirit of the Water Essay Contest. With thanks to a generous donor, the Iowa Water Center is holding a writing contest for students in the state of Iowa in high school, college, or graduate school. Entries are being accepted through February 1; visit our website for more details.

This is all in addition to the perennial block of excellent plenaries, breakouts, award presentations, photo contest, networking, Scheman sticky buns, posters, exhibitors, and more! Look for the full agenda to be released next week and registration to open in January (we’ll announce the date on social media and email our subscribers).

Get to know the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance

Story submitted by Kathleen Chester, Rathbun Land and Water Alliance Outreach

 The Rathbun Land and Water Alliance

 The Rathbun Land and Water Alliance was established in 1997 to promote cooperation between public and private sectors in an effort to protect land and water resources in the Rathbun Lake Watershed.  The Rathbun Lake Watershed is located in the six southern Iowa Counties of Appanoose, Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Monroe, and Wayne and covers 354,000 acres. Rathbun Lake is the primary water source for Rathbun Regional Water Association, which provides drinking water to 80,000 people in southern Iowa and northern Missouri.

The Alliance’s integrated approach resulted in the development of a water quality monitoring program and the completion of the Rathbun Lake Watershed Assessment and Management Plan in 2001. In 2003, the Alliance was one of only 20 watersheds in the nation to receive the EPA’s Targeted Watershed Initiative Grant. More than a dozen organizations and agencies at the local, state, and federal levels partnered with the Alliance to begin implementing best management practices in the Rathbun Lake Watershed. This generated a project which has come to be known as the Protect Rathbun Lake Project.

Project Highlights

Knowing where to install best management practices has been significant to the success of reducing contaminants delivered to Rathbun Lake. GIS technology was used to create a model that identifies priority land, which is land determined to have the greatest potential to deliver sediment and phosphorous to Rathbun Lake. Due to the size of the Rathbun Lake Watershed, it was divided into 61 more manageable sections called subwatersheds. The primary objective is to apply best management practices on priority land in targeted sub-watersheds.

The Protect Rathbun Lake Project was one of the first in Iowa to use the targeted approach. Protect Rathbun Lake Project staff work with landowners to install conservation practices in areas where priority land exists.

State Recognition

The Rathbun Land and Water Alliance has grown to be recognized as one of the more effective, locally-led watershed organizations in Iowa. In 2012, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad selected the Rathbun Lake Watershed as the location for the field level event as part of Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week. The governor, lieutenant governor, and numerous state agency department heads traveled to the Rathbun Lake Watershed to hear firsthand from the landowners who participate in the Protect Rathbun Lake Project about what actions they take to protect Rathbun Lake.

Organization and Leadership

Alliance members have created a strong organization with leadership committed to the organization’s mission, which is to foster a voluntary approach driven by landowners, water users, and public and private organizations to protect and enhance land, water, and economic resources in the Rathbun region.

This partnership includes the following individuals, organizations, and agencies: Participating landowners in the Rathbun Lake Watershed; CoBank; Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Division of Soil Conservation; Iowa Department of Natural Resources; Iowa State University; Iowa Watershed Improvement Review Board; Southern Iowa Development and Conservation Authority; US Army Corps of Engineers; US Environmental Protection Agency; USDA Farm Service Agency; USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Appanoose, Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Monroe, and Wayne Soil and Water Conservation Districts; Appanoose, Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Monroe, and Wayne Counties; Iowa Farm Bureau at the state and county levels; and Rathbun Regional Water  Association.

Project Goals

The Rathbun Land and Water Alliance’s primary goal is to reduce sediment and phosphorus delivery to Rathbun Lake and water bodies in the lake’s watershed. The goal is to treat 30,000 acres of priority land, which will reduce annual sediment and phosphorus delivery to Rathbun Lake by an estimated 90,000 tons of sediment and 360,000 pounds of phosphorus. Monitoring water quality is essential to evaluating the effectiveness of the installed conservation practices.

Technical and financial assistance provided by project partners has allowed landowners with identified priority land to take advantage of cost share opportunities. The state’s low interest loan program is also available to landowners to construct best management practices such as terraces, planting grass waterways, grade stabilization structures, and sediment control basins.

Results

Close to 600 landowners have worked with the Alliance to install practices in the Rathbun Lake Watershed. To date, these practices have prevented 49,484 tons of sediment and 213,204 pounds of phosphorous from being carried in runoff each year to Rathbun Lake.

 More than 1.5 million feet of terraces and more than 500 sediment basins and grade stabilization structures have been installed since 2004.

Financial Support

Since the Protect Rathbun Lake Project began in 2004, Alliance members and partners have provided significant financial and technical support for the organization’s efforts. Close to $31 million in financial support has been contributed for project activities in the Rathbun Lake Watershed. Specific mention should be made of the nearly $5 million invested in best management practices by landowners in the watershed to protect Rathbun Lake.

The support has enabled the Alliance to share the cost of installing best management practices with landowners in the watershed as well as carry out other important project activities. This support also allows two full time staff to coordinate the installation of best management practices by working with watershed landowners at the field level and one technician is stationed in the Chariton field office.

In addition to the installation of conservation practices, the support enabled the creation of a landowner recognition program and helped fund water quality monitoring and Rathbun Lake shoreline and wetland restoration.

Landowner Recognition and Outreach

Without the cooperation of the Rathbun Lake Watershed landowners, the installation of soil saving practices that protect Rathbun Lake would not be possible.  To recognize those who have shown exemplary stewardship in protecting Rathbun Lake, the Rathbun Lake Protector Program was developed. Each year, the Alliance invites the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in each of the watershed counties to nominate those who they believe have contributed to the protection of Rathbun Lake. Nominations were based on past efforts as well as present and planned actions to protect water quality.

These landowners are recognized at the Protect Rathbun Lake Annual Meeting held each fall. To date, more than 50 landowners have received this recognition. Each of these Rathbun Lake Protectors has had a sign installed on their farm recognizing them for their actions.  Additionally, plaques engraved with the names of these landowners are displayed in each Soil and Water Conservation District office.

Valuable Resources

Conservation activities carried out by the Alliance’s Protect Rathbun Lake Project protect Rathbun Lake which is a water source for not only drinking water but is also a valuable recreation resource. It is visited by more than one million visitors each year, is home to Honey Creek Resort State Park, and provides valuable habitat to fish and wildlife.

In partnership with the Protect Rathbun Lake Project, the Iowa DNR and US Army Corps of Engineers have invested resources in the restoration and protection of the shoreline at Rathbun Lake.  To date, this shoreline work has been completed at more than a dozen critical sites around Rathbun Lake. This work significantly reduces shoreline erosion at these sites, improves water quality, preserves important fish habitat, and protects recreational infrastructure.

Annual Meeting

Each fall at the Protect Rathbun Lake Annual Meeting, project staff provide an update of activities carried out during the past year. This event is regularly attended by 200 Rathbun Lake Watershed landowners. In the fall of 2016, the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance initiated the first Farm to Faucet Landowner Appreciation Event, which included a tour of the new Rathbun Regional Water Association’s water treatment facility.

To follow along with the Rathbun Lake Project, place presentation requests to the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance, and attend upcoming events, check out their website!

Get to know the Prairie STRIPS Project

Written by Hanna Bates, Program Assistant at the Iowa Water Center

“Nature doesn’t work without connection.” – Mary Ellen Hannibal, Spine of the Continent

Two weeks ago, the Iowa Water Center staff attended a lecture on a study conducted with the Iowa State University Prairie STRIPS Project. Eduardo Luquin Oroz, graduate student at the University of Wageningen, presented results from examining the sediment deposition at the sites associated with this project as well as the strip width effects on sediment deposition.  After leaving the presentation, the above quote immediately entered my mind.

STRIPS, which stands for Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips, is the use of filter and contour strips of prairie land within corn and soybean fields. Evidence shows that the use of this practice can be both beneficial to the environment in reducing soil and nutrient loss and can be affordable for farmers. The Prairie STRIPS project states that by changing as little as 10% of a cropped field to perennials, it can reduce the amount of soil leaving the field by 90% and reduce nitrogen leaching by up to 85%. This practice also extends beyond the field to social and other ecological benefits. This is through providing natural habitats that support pollinator and insect populations.

Oroz outlined the benefits our system can receive from the integration of diverse plant life within Midwestern agriculture. Part of his study examined different land use scenarios. This was to determine the optimal amount of land conversion of farm ground to perennials that would address soil and water management in the field. The study also explored a variety of perennial placement options. Results showed that having prairie integrated within row crop fields, rather than in isolated blocks at the drainage outlet of a field, was effective in reducing soil and water loss. Placing prairie strategically in the drainage area in the field also creates corridors. This breaks up the use of the field where wildlife and native grasses can intermix with row crop agriculture. Corridors can serve as passages for species, such as pollinators, to other natural areas. Creating these connections supports resilient ecological populations and a healthy environment. Overall, the results from this study show that integrating our different landscapes, as opposed to isolating them, can bring holistic benefits to plants, wildlife, and people.

Lately, the Prairie STRIPS project is getting more attention from the public who want to see it scaled-up beyond the research and out in more fields. Iowa farmers, such as Tim Smith, and even urban dwellers that include Mark Bittman, are serving as advocates for this practice. Prairie STRIPS is not only bridging our landscapes, but also bringing different stakeholders together on conservation. Ultimately, connection may be the key when it comes to addressing our water-related issues.

Get to know the Daily Erosion Project

… Some Ugly Truth Revealed

Written by Dr. Richard Cruse, Director of the Iowa Water Center and Professor in Agronomy at Iowa State University

Answering a speaking request from the Nebraska Natural Resource Districts, I delivered a talk last week in Central Nebraska. Kearney, Nebraska to be more exact. Kearney is located deep into the irrigated area of the Great Plains, and so I wondered a little – actually more than a little – why this group would be interested in my focus area of soil erosion. More specifically, why they would be interested in hearing about a project that I am working on that is called, The Daily Erosion Project.

The Daily Erosion Project is a tool that utilizes multiple data sources to estimate soil movement and  water runoff from hill slopes on a daily basis. Currently, this tool models soil erosion across approximately 1600 small watersheds that geographically form the State of Iowa. The development and expansion of this tool is coming to other regions of the Midwest, such as Minnesota, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Eastern Nebraska.

Why would anyone be interested in this information? Healthy and abundant soils lead to healthy and abundant crops. Our ever-increasing loss of topsoil reduces crop yield potential, and in times of drought, this becomes more and more evident. As we’ve seen throughout history, societies without quality soils tend to have short histories.

Soil erosion also contributes to our surface water quality problems. Eroded sediments fill reservoirs and floodplains. This not only damages our built environment, but also disrupts ecological habitats in our water systems. Solutions to this include removing sediment from ditches – or dredging – at a significant cost to the taxpayer.

Soil loss also comes at a cost to the farmer. Lost sediment from farm fields carry nutrients that have been valued at more than $2.50 per ton of lost soil.  The average hillslope soil loss rate of Iowa is about 5.8 tons per acre per year, with some watersheds averaging over 30 tons per acre per year. Soil erosion costs!

Soil erosion can be minimized with a three-pronged approach to managing the issue. Farmers and landowners across the US Corn Belt Region can: (1) seek to understand the cost or impact of inappropriate management, (2) learn how the right soil management practices can pay dividends, and (3) use the soil management practices that are well-suited for their operation.

Targeting limited financial resources to assist with land management improvement in the areas of most need and/or most vulnerable has merit and just makes good economic sense. Data driven soil erosion estimates, such as those generated by the Daily Erosion Project, can provide the foundation for informed policy and good, everyday practices on farmland across the Midwest.

Now, back to Nebraska.  

Areas of Nebraska have recently experienced periodic rainfalls of five or more inches of rain. This is occurring more frequently in recent years than it did in the past. Similar rainfall experiences exist for Iowa and surrounding states. People from around the corners of the Midwest are coming to acknowledge that our land is not immune to the extreme weather events that we have been experiencing from year-to-year. Some watershed-level soil erosion estimates during storm filled years in Iowa have even exceeded 40 tons per acre – in a single year.

The Nebraska Natural Resources District seems to get it. They were energetic, highly engaged, and rich with questions. A good and very important question from the group was: Can the Daily Erosion Project be used to test scenarios of different management practices? Currently, the tool is being developed to run different scenarios with a variety of in-field conservation practices, such as extended crop rotations and conservation tillage practices. Using the Daily Erosion Project in this way is the next step to not only place data in the hands of farmers, but to also help them make better management decisions on their land.

We can do better; we must do better. By getting tools, such as the Daily Erosion Project, in the hands of the public we now have the ability to do better. It’s another tool in the toolbox that the public can use to help make better decisions. Nebraskans get it and others must, too.