Watershed Management Authorities of Iowa

Cultivating a Community of Practice for Watershed Management

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

The word is starting to get out on one of our latest Iowa Water Center initiatives: Watershed Management Authorities of Iowa (WMAs of Iowa). This is a statewide organization to unite the ever-growing numbers of Watershed Management Authorities in the state. The goal of this group is to create a network for WMAs to connect with each other, give WMAs a voice in the state, and serve as an information resource for all watershed management stakeholders. WMAs of Iowa helps cultivate a community of practice for watershed management in Iowa.

Let’s be honest here – we did not come up with this great idea. The need for this group came from the WMA stakeholders themselves, and they are the ones who will drive it. Multiple work sessions this winter with the WMA community resulted in a strategic framework that needed one thing: implementation. IWC proposed to act as a catalyst for implementation by offering administrative capacity – organizing meetings, managing a timeline, maintaining a listserv, coordinating all the work that has already gone into creating a presence for this group.

Right now, we’re in the process of inviting WMAs to join us, and we’re looking for board members from those existing and newly forming WMAs to drive the organization forward. We hope to have a board in place by this fall with a website, newsletter, and other outreach and resource activities to follow.

Why is IWC involved?

Great question.

I’ve confessed before to being the president of the WMA fan club, and waxed poetic about the effectiveness of watershed-based planning. I’ve also been using the admittedly odd metaphor that IWC can act as caulk for water groups in the state – we seek to fill gaps and build capacity that connects groups to use resources effectively and efficiently.

By building up WMAs in the state, we’re promoting a research-backed method of natural resource management that will lead to better water resource management and implementation of creative and practical solutions to water resources related problems. That is the reason we exist, you know. (Need proof? Read the Water Resources Research Act as amended in 2006!)

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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).

Introducing a New Member to the Iowa Water Center Team

Hanna BatesHanna Bates joined the Iowa Water Center at the end of August as the Program Assistant. In this position, she will administer our grants program, assist in planning our education and outreach events, and assist in facilitating the relationship between water-related researchers and the public.

Hanna grew up on a diversified family farm operation in Harlan, Iowa. Growing up on a farm cultivated her passion to help keep Midwestern agriculture and the environment resilient for the future. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Iowa and completed her Masters of Science degree at Iowa State University in Spring 2015. While at Iowa State University, she studied Sustainable Agriculture and Sociology with a research focus on the adoption and diffusion of conservation practices among Iowa farmers.

Hanna has spent the prior year working at Prairie Rivers of Iowa managing an Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Water Quality Initiative Grant for the Squaw Creek Watershed located in central Iowa. In this position, she worked with public-private partners in agriculture, local farmers and landowners to use new conservation practices, and coordinated education and outreach efforts to local community members.

In this position at the Iowa Water Center, Hanna is looking forward to working with the experts in soil health and water quality and to help support their research goals. She is excited to be a part the mission of the Water Center, which is to promote water-related research, provide educational opportunities, and to create tools that the public can use to shape better policy and everyday practices that improve our natural resources.

Mixing entrepreneurs with H2O for a solution

Earlier this year, IWC Director Rick Cruse and Associate Director Melissa Miller met with staff from the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative (AEI) at Iowa State University about an exciting new event idea. AEI team members have spent the last several months working tirelessly to organize Water Innovation Challenge 2016, an open community creative event that will join students, industry experts, scientists, entrepreneurs and YOU to collaborate and co-create new ideas that change the way we think about, manage, and use water in our state.

Details:

Waterpalooza 2016
Sept 1 & 2 (must be present both days)
Scheman Building, Iowa State University campus, Ames
$50 registration (FREE for current students)
Over $15,000 awarded in prizes

The event is facilitated by Dr. Jeffrey Stamp, a professional creative and concept developer who was the inventor of the Frito-Lay Baked! Lays® Potato Crisps. Dr. Stamp is a native of Sheldon, Iowa and leads creative innovation sessions worldwide for corporations, universities, and start-ups.

We at IWC are delighted to promote this event that will equip a variety of stakeholder with entrepreneurial skills all while thinking big and sharing ideas that will creatively address water quality issues in Iowa.

For guidelines, event schedule, and registration information, please visit the event’s webpage. Questions can be directed to Amanda Blair at acblair@iastate.edu or 515.294.4945. This event is sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

Reflections on the 2016 Iowa Water Conference

It’s been a week since the opening of the 2016 Iowa Water Conference, one of the most highly attended events in its ten year history. We’ve been busy tying up loose ends, getting presentations posted on the event page, and even catching a few breaths here and there. A week removed seems like a good time to record some observations about this year’s conference as we look forward to 2017 (yes, already!).

You can’t control the weather. We had the conference three weeks later this year to avoid the inevitable early March “in like a lion” happenings. Mother Nature pretty much laughed in our faces, since the weather at the beginning of March was gorgeous, and the storm Wednesday night prevented several attendees and three speakers from making it to Thursday’s activities. (Absolutely enormous thank you to ISU Brent Pringnitz for setting these speakers up to present remotely in an unbelievably short turnaround period.)

Water is kind of a big deal. We had almost 500 people attend the water conference this year. That’s 100 more than last year. We had more posters, more exhibitors. People care about water so much that they will take two days out of their busy schedules to come learn and talk about it with people they may or may not know. The opening plenary even got media coverage on WHO TV.

The Iowa Water Conference shouldn’t be the only time we collaborate. We’ve received feedback from many people who want to make sure the cross-pollination that the Water Conference fosters stays at the forefront. One way to do that is to plan or attend local conferences/meetings/seminars on more specific interests (like tomorrow’s IGWA meeting in Newton). If you need help planning, let us know – we can help steer you in the right direction. If you’re looking for events, sign up for our newsletter. If you have an event, send it to us and we’ll help promote it.

This is YOUR conference. We made quite a few changes to this year’s conference to reflect the comments left in the evaluations from last year, and from what we can tell, they worked (for the most part). Please continue to send us your ideas throughout the year. We’ll have an open call for presentations during the summer months; you’ll find the announcement on this blog, our newsletter and Facebook and Twitter. We have an amazing core committee of conference planners, but can always use more ideas and voices. If you  or your organization might want to be on our list of planning partners, give us a call.

There is a lot more we can say, but we’ll leave it at that for now. What were your takeaways from the 2016 Iowa Water Conference?

Iowa Groundwater Association Conference March 31

The Iowa Water Conference isn’t the only learning opportunity around these here parts – make sure you sign up to attend the Iowa Groundwater Association‘s Spring Conference. Registration is due in advance, so hop on over to their website to register – $75/members, $100/non-members, and $25/students until 3/24.

The details:

Thursday, March 31, 2016

DMACC Conference Center Auditorium – 600 N. 2nd Ave. West, Newton, Iowa

IGWA is honored to present this exciting line-up of speakers for our spring conference! Please join us in learning about the Flint Water Study, the DMWW lawsuit, avian influenza, antibiotic resistant bacteria, arsenic, radionuclides, and source water protection!

CEU’s are available for Groundwater Professionals (2), Certified Well Contractors (6), and Water Treatment Operators (0.5).

Presentations:

  • Detection of Avian Influenza A in Groundwater: Results from the 2015 HPAI Outbreak – Laura Hubbard, USGS
  • Protecting Source Waters in Agricultural Watersheds – Bill Stowe, Des Moines Water Works
  • Flint Water Study – Anurag Mantha, Virginia Tech
  • Fate and Transport of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria and Resistance Genes in Tile Drained Agricultural Fields Receiving Swine Manure Application Over Four Years – Elizabeth Luby, Iowa State University
  • Arsenic and Old Wells: Reducing Contamination Risks for Private Well Users – Sophia Walsh, Cerro Gordo County Dept. of Public Health
  • Radionuclides in Alluvial and Shallow Bedrock Aquifers – Dustin May, State Hygienic Laboratory/University of Iowa
  • Hydrogeologic Reconnaissance and Characterization for a Groundwater Source of Supply: Fort Madison, Iowa Case Study – Greg Brennan, HR Green              

Waxing poetic about working together (and NIWR)

In the water world, we talk a lot about working together. We all live in a watershed. The importance of partnerships. Work with your upstream neighbor to improve life downstream.

Sometimes, all it is, is talk. We say we want to work together, but it doesn’t happen, for whatever reason – maybe we can’t get together, we get busy with other things, we can’t agree on priorities. But the reason we talk about working together in water is because we do all live in a watershed. Working with your upstream neighbor DOES improve life downstream. Partnerships aren’t only important, they’re vital to success, and when we work together, impactful things happen.

Last week, 49 of the 54 Water Resources Research Institutes got together for the annual director’s meeting. The Virginia Water Resources Research Center planned the meeting this year (we had the honor last year) and for three days, we worked together.

A few droplets that represent the bigger “working together” stream:

-49 out of 54 WRRIs were in attendance. The meeting was in Washington, DC. The Virgin Islands made it. Alaska made it. Even Guam made it. (Actually, Guam director Shahram Khosrowpanah is a valued member of the NIWR board.) Distance didn’t preclude the Institutes from getting together.

-We heard from federal representatives that told us water resources research is headed toward the funding of collaborative, interdisciplinary research – multifaceted projects that address water resources not just from a technical perspective but also from a human dimension perspective. Water resources management IS the proverbial Big Picture. Research will treat it as such.

-Over a period of 24 hours, the Iowa, Illinois, and Tennessee Institutes went from chatting  over a few sandwiches about potentially working on a regional effort to planning, identifying, and putting into action a plan to work with USGS Water Science Centers in our state and region to focus on making a difference in the Mississippi River basin. (More on that as it develops.) All three states have different priorities and run their Institutes a little differently, but we all have one goal.

This meeting was, and always is, a short period of time in which we focus on what it means to work together. Iowans, you have an opportunity to do the same thing next month at the Iowa Water Conference. Use the conference to not only learn about the latest in water management in Iowa, but to find people and organizations with whom you can work together. Work with your upstream neighbor; you WILL improve downstream. Partnerships ARE important. And for goodness sake, we all live in a watershed!