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February 2017 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
 Waste Water?
 Manure.  One stage in a rich, life-giving cycle from sun, soil, and water, to  plant, to animal, to kitchen table, and back to the soil again.  Sometimes  we call manure animal waste.  This term signifies a break in the natural  cycle, a break in our thinking about it, or both.  Thinking of manure as  waste rather than a critical contributor to soil replenishment is costly for  food production, soil  productivity, and the quality of our water.*

 We have a similar break in the way we think about and use water.        Whether  it's the chemicals we use to clean our homes; the stormwater  running off  our streets full of oil, grease, and salt from winter road-clearing; or the overabundance of nitrogen and phosporus coming from our sewage treatment plants and farm fields, we move it down stream. Out of sight, out of mind.
March 22 is World Water Day. This year's theme is "Water and Wastewater". Let's think about the term wastewater for a minute. If you're reading this, you're already well-versed in the water cycle. You know the water you drink was at some point the animal waste of a Tyrannosaurus or Velociraptor.  If you live in a community that draws its water from a river - the Ohio, the Mississippi, and others - you are probably aware that someone else's wastewater is your drinking water.
Wastewater. I know there are talented, insightful professionals that use this term all the time.  I respectfully suggest that we ought to stop.  This message is the essence of the World Water Day theme.
Perhaps if we stopped calling our water waste, we would start treating it as if none of it was expendable, as if we knew that we, or someone we love would be drinking that water sooner or later.
Here are just a few examples of organizations that recognize and communicate that no water is wastewater. Feel free to share more with us here.
*For more information about the value of manure for soil health (and impacts on water), see an excellent round table series covering manure and soil healh issues including manure and soil health testing, manure and soil health biology, manure and soil health erosion and losses, and manure and cover crops. This series is sponsored by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center and the North Central Region Water Network.

If you would like to contribute ideas for the future of the North Central Region Water Network, feel free to send me a note at .


Rebecca Power, Network Director


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Network Initiatives

Visit our Network Initiative Page  for more information on current and previous initiatives, and future funding opportunities. 

Stormwater Core Curriculum


Stormwater Practices and Maintenance Core Curriculum will complete the development of five learning modules in a regional online curriculum to address stormwater management education for early career professionals. The first module has been completed and is hosted as a Moodle on the  eXtension learning platform. The regional curriculum began with seed grant from the North Central Region Water Network to fund the development of the first learning module. The remaining four modules will be developed in conjunction with a Technology grant from the University of Minnesota Extension. The full curriculum is anticipated to be available online in September 2017. Several opportunities to participate in the planning, development, review and implementation of the curriculum are available.


Excessive stormwater runoff generated when rain or snowmelt events flow over land without infiltrating may cause flash flooding, significant water quality degradation, and loss of property. The primary method of control for stormwater is through best management practices. Additionally, most stormwater discharges are considered point sources which require a permit. Water resource managers and stormwater professionals need to learn how to adopt and maintain proven methods, techniques, and practices to minimize and combat the negative environmental impacts of excessive stormwater runoff.

The Stormwater Practices and Maintenance Core Curriculum is an online course being developed to provide training to the new and early career stormwater practitioners and educators. Course participants learn the fundamentals of stormwater science, practices, and management. Through the course they become equipped with the necessary resources and skills for use in stormwater management, construction, maintenance, and other practical applications. The Stormwater Practices and Maintenance Core Curriculum ultimately aides stormwater professionals and educators in improving and optimizing their stormwater operations.


The online course can be accessed at, by searching for Stormwater Practices and Maintenance Core Curriculum. The online course is a publicly available, regionally applicable and comprehensive stormwater training that can be used by stormwater professionals to 1) optimize their stormwater operations, and 2) help them to meet their community's clean water goals.

The course is composed of five modules:
1. Introduction & Foundation
2. Stormwater Practices Planning & Selection
3. Specific Stormwater Practices: Life Cycle: planning, siting, design, construction, operation and maintenance
4. Stormwater Practices Construction & Maintenance, and
5. Regulatory Modules

A needs assessment conducted through literature research and local survey (May-July 2013, n=150) confirmed the need for a regionally uniform stormwater fundamentals, practices, and the inspections and maintenance training. A 12 State regional team was formed in 2014 and a detailed logic model was developed to help to secure a $40,000 seed funding grant from the North Central Regional Network. Module one was completed in 2015 with three chapters. The course has been completed by more than 50 people with participants sharing comments such as: "I would like to use this course for my Junior year engineering students, they don't get this kind of information otherwise" and "This course would have been extremely valuable early in my career."

The development of the first module was a major task and took nearly a year to complete as the process involved establishing regional partnerships, forming the team, developing team roles, developing initial content and outline for all five modules, finding peer reviewers, content experts, pilot testers, local contacts and establishing a promotional plan for the online course. Consequently, a proven and successful process has been established for the development of the remaining modules that will significantly increase efficiencies and lessen the development time. The next four modules are scheduled to be completed by July 2017.


This project will serve stormwater professionals including designers, engineers, landscape architects, contractors, builders and developers, commercial property owners and managers, inspectors, planners and building permit agencies, elected officials, local government managers, seasonal field staff, and educators.


The goal of this project is to develop a publicly available stormwater core curriculum platform using regionally uniform content and locally-specific research that can be readily used by educators, local governments and stormwater professionals to optimize their stormwater operations. Course objectives are learner-based, such that participants will:
  • Learn stormwater basics and gain skills to teach others,  
  • Learn both broad, regionally uniform and local, state-specific content,
  • Establish networking and local contacts or advocate in small communities through course participation,
  • Gain a better understanding of multi-state stormwater issues and gaps, and
  • Increase skills of area Extension professionals in developing online courses with national and regional exposure

A Technology grant from the University of Minnesota has been awarded to the project to develop and produce the remaining modules of the Stormwater Practices and Maintenance Core Course including support resources on instructional design and production. This project is led by Shahram Missaghi, University of Minnesota Extension and Katie Pekarek (CO-PI), University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Stormwater management is necessarily a multidisciplinary field due to the complexity of its nature, therefore the Stormwater Practices and Maintenance Core Course needs participation from multidisciplinary, multi-agency, community partners and public sector partners. Course development will require chapter outline reviewers, content developers and writers, video and photo contributors, pilot testers, and early adopters who may use the course in formal university courses, as a primer to a Sediment and Erosion Control class, as a requirement for contractors in an MS4 community, or in other innovative ways.

Human activity on the landscape has drastically changed the natural hydrologic cycle by concentrating much of the output intosurface water as excessive runoff. Some consequences of excessive runoff are flash flooding, loss of property and significant water quality degradation. Since the 1980s, a national effort called green infrastructure has focused on remedying the problem by providing a series of tools to minimize the impact of our developments by mimicking natural hydrology. Recently, there has been expanded and rapid growth in the number of publicly available stormwater educational programs for professionals and communities that focus on green infrastructure tools (referred to as best management practices). However, much of the growth is home based and addresses specific local needs and issues. Until now, a publicly available, uniform and comprehensive stormwater core curriculum has been missing. A collaborative group of stormwater educators are now leading the effort to develop a program to address this need.

Building the collaborations:  A network of collaborative group of stormwater educators from across the country was created to develop such educational program as described above.   The group met regularly to identify the theme, specific topics, and the best delivery methods for the proposed curriculum.  The collaborative also identified the specific topics (such as design of stormwater practices vs. their construction), the necessary level of knowledge, and the appropriate audience for the specific topic.


Shahram Missaghi, PhD
Extension Educator, University of Minnesota
(952) 221-1333

Katie Pekarek
Extension Educator, University of Nebraska


Leadership Spotlight: 

Each month we call attention to a significant state-led project and associated leadership team member from our Network. These spotlights demonstrate the diversity of ongoing water research and outreach projects in our region. Please contact your state's North Central Region Water Network Leadership Team member for details on the projects in your area. 

Septic Challenges - UMN Program has the Answers

The University of Minnesota Onsite Sewage Treatment program (OSTP) is one of few comprehensive decentralized onsite wastewater programs serving septic system professionals and the public nationally that is housed in a University setting.   OSTP provides professional training, technical assistance and research.

The Professional training program has been in place since 1973, and offers both entry level courses and continuing education courses that prepare designers, installers, and inspectors in the basics of their professions, soils courses, troubleshooting and keeping up to date on their ever-changing field.  The program offers over 40 planned courses each year around the state of Minnesota, and OSTP staff work closely with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which is responsible for rule development and the actual certification and licensing.  In addition the program offers over 10 workshops on various topics as needed to other professional groups on an annual basis.

The OSTP also has a long history of providing technical assistance to counties, communities and homeowners on maintaining their septic systems.  Having created the number-one-selling Extension publication "Septic System Owner's Guide," with a grant from NIFA, OSTP then took the next step of creating a national tool for septic professionals creating a customized owner's guide using the free tool:  The OSTP website will host a link to a user's guide webinar in March 2017. OSTP staff also work with communities to assess their wastewater needs and implement solutions to their wastewater problems.  The OSTP is seen as the "go-to" program for questions on technical issues, especially the more gnarly problems.

OSTP has built a very strong research program with funding from federal, state and industry sources.  One of the key ongoing research relationships is with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT), evaluating and providing information about the septic systems at their highway rest areas and truck stations. In the next phase of this research, the program will be performing field-based verification of groundwater mounding, continue a water use study, create  operation and maintenance manuals and septic system design manuals, evaluate toilet paper options, install educational displays, and evaluate impacts of water conditioning and flammable waste traps.  An future project will evaluate reuse options for wastewater streams at MnDOT facilities.

Another OSTP research project of  is quantifying the current water softening salt loads in Minnesota, assessing alternative softening materials and methods, and quantifying the transport of chloride from de-icing and softening salts through the soil. The project goal is to minimize the long-term impacts of de-icing and softening salt on water bodies in Minnesota.  

For more details about OSTP research projects:

For more details on the training programs:

To contact the program, please email or you may find individual contacts on the website.  

Faye Sleeper, University of Minnesota

Faye Sleeper is co-director of University of Minnesota's Water Resources Center. Recently, she co-led the development and implementation of the Watershed Specialist Training Program, oversaw the Conservation Reserve Program Readiness Midwestern region project, and managed the Agricultural Impacts on Water Quality project. She serves as co-chair of the university's Storm Water Linkage Committee and coordinates the Climate Adaptation Partnership. Ms. Sleeper represents University of Minnesota Extension on the Board of Water and Soil Resources and on the North Central Region Water Network. 

Faye Sleeper, Co-Director, Water Resources Center
(612) 624-3738


The Great Lakes: Moving Michigan Forward
East Lansing, MI. March 7, 2017
The Great Lakes: Moving Michigan Forward, incorporates ideas generated by Michigan State University's Water Moves, a university-wide initiative fostering scientific innovation and cultural and artistic expression inspired by water. The conference is co-sponsored by Michigan State University's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Institute of Water Research; Michigan Sea Grant Extension, and the Office of the Great Lakes, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. More info.

Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework Training Workshop
West Lafayette, IN. March 14 - March 15, 2017
Presented by USDA-Agricultural Research Service, National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment. There will also be an optional Field Day on March 16, 8:30am-12:30pm. Workshop instructors will include Sarah Porter, David James and Mark Tomer (USDA-ARS). The registration deadline is Friday, March 10th.  More info.

Making Cover Crops Work - Experiences from the Field
Grand Rapids, MI. March 14 - 15, 2017
Concurrent sessions will feature presentations about experiences from the field on making cover crops work delivered by a researcher/educator and farmer team. Three tracks will provide cover crop information on field crop, vegetable crop and forage/grazing systems. Each session includes ample time for questions from the audience. Certified Crop Advisor and Restricted Use Pesticide credits will be available. More info.

Wisconsin Water Thinkers Network Gathering
Green Lake, WI. March 22, 2017
The Wisconsin Water Thinkers Network gathering will provide an opportunity to create, connect and share water community engagement strategies and resources. Enjoy networking opportunities, concurrent sessions, a keynote speaker and memorable field experiences.  Registration is just $30 and only $10 for undergraduate and graduate students.  Registration includes all Gathering activities and lunch.  The 2017 Wisconsin Water Thinkers Network Gathering is suited for professionals, students and volunteers who are involved in engaging the public around water. More info.

2017 Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention
Stevens Point, WI. April 5 - April 7, 2017
Did you know that the human body undergoes remarkable changes every   time you go underwater? The heart rate slows and the cardiovascular system shifts gears, allowing people to hold their breath much longer than they can above land. Did you also know that, even when controlling for all other variables, people who live near lakes, rivers and oceans experience significant benefits in terms of happiness, longevity, and absence of diseases? These are just some of the many fascinating ways that being near, in, on, and under water affects people. We invite you to take a closer look at these phenomena during the 2017 Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Convention in Stevens Point April 5-7 as we "go deeper" and explore the mind-body-water connection. More info.

Funding and Other Opportunities

NCRWN Call for Seed Funding Proposals
The first call is for Impact 2020 preproposals that will ultimately result in the selection of two Network "flagship initiatives" funded through December 2019.  Successful preproposal teams will be expected to participate in a 1 1/2 day Design Meeting to 1) build systems thinking and initiative design skills and 2) refine pre proposals.  The second call is for Capacity Building Mini Grant full proposals. This call will result in up to four year-long mini grants for 2017.   Both Impact 2020 pre proposals and Capacity Building Mini Grant full proposals are due March 14, 2017. Learn more.

2017 Healthy Communities Grant Program
The Healthy Communities Grant Program is EPA New England's main competitive grant program to work directly with communities to reduce environmental risks, protect and improve human health and improve the quality of life. The Healthy Communities Grant Program will achieve this through identifying and funding projects that:  *Target resources to benefit communities at risk.  *Assess, understand, and reduce environmental and human health risks.  *Increase collaboration through partnerships and community-based projects.  *Build institutional and community capacity to understand and solve environmental and human health problems.  *Advance emergency preparedness and ecosystem resilience.  *Achieve measurable environmental and human health benefits. Applications are due April 7, 2017. Learn more.

NOAA Sea Grant 2017 Aquaculture Initiative: Addressing Impediments to Aquaculture Opportunities
Depending on appropriations, NOAA Sea Grant expects to have available a total of $3,000,000 between fiscal years 2017 and 2018 for a national initiative focused on answering key questions impeding the development and expansion of sustainable United States marine, coastal, and Great Lakes aquaculture. Successful applications must outline small scale projects, business plans, workshops, etc. that seek to address key questions, barriers, or hurdles impeding the advancement of new or developing aquaculture initiatives that will contribute to the continuing growth of United States aquaculture production. Applications due April 18, 2017. Learn more.

2017 Water Use Data and Research
The Water Availability and Use Science Program of the U.S. Geological Survey is offering a two-year cooperative agreement opportunity to State water resource agencies that collect water use data to participate in the Water Use Data and Research program. This funding opportunity is to support State Water Resource agencies in the collection and reporting of water use data for the WUDR program. Applications are due April 18, 2017. Learn more.

WaterSMART Grants: Water Marketing Strategy Grants for Fiscal Year 2017
The objective of this FOA is to invite states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts, and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to leverage their money and resources by cost sharing with Reclamation to develop a water marketing strategy to help prevent water-related conflicts and contribute to water supply sustainability. Applicants under this FOA may request funding to conduct planning activities to develop a water marketing strategy to establish or expand water markets or water marketing). Applications are due April 19, 2017. Learn more.

In Case You Missed it...

The Current  is a speed networking webinar series for professionals engaged in water-related extension, research, and conservation activities. The North Central Region Water Network and Extension Directors from all 12 North Central states are sponsoring this series to highlight the best water-related research and Extension programming in the region. Webinars will run for 60 minutes, with three 10-minute project snapshots and 30 minutes of QA/peer-to-peer interaction.

Upcoming: The Current 26 -  Managing Onsite Septic Systems: Research and Outreach 
March 15, 2017, 2:00-3:00 CT
  • Dave Gustafson, University of Minnesota
  • Steve Safferman, Michigan State University

Past: The Current Webinar 25 - Communicating Conservation
February 15, 2017, 2:00-3:00 CT
  • Michael Dahlstrom, Iowa State University, Effective Communication through Telling Stories
  • Kristin Runge, UW-Extension: Muddying the Water: How Frames Affects Our Perceptions of Science Issues


Leopold Center Announces 2016 Spencer Award Recipients
A farming couple who advocate for sustainable agriculture and a USDA agronomist are the recipients of the 2016 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture. David and Corrine Williams of Villisca and Tom Kaspar, Ames, will be accepting this prestigious award on March 22 at the Iowa Water Conference in Ames.  The Spencer Award is one of the largest and longest running awards of its kind in Iowa. Administered by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, the award recognizes researchers, teachers and farmers who have contributed significantly to the environmental and economic stability of the Iowa farming community. View here.


Great Lakes Mostly Open Water In Winter 2016-17
The Midwest may be in the throes of winter, but most of the Great Lakes are open water.  Right now, roughly 10 percent of the combined surface of the Great Lakes is covered in ice, according to  George Leshkevich , research physical scientist for the  Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory  with the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration The Great Lakes have been experiencing a downward trend in ice cover since 1973, according to Leshkevich.  "And it seems like the variability from year to year is becoming greater," he said. View here.

USDA Invests $103 Million to Protect Lives, Property After Natural Disasters
Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Young today announced U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing up to $103 million in fiscal year 2017 for disaster recovery efforts to help state, local and tribal units of government protect lives and property in disaster-affected areas following natural disasters. Local units of government, or sponsors, will use financial and technical assistance from the   Emergency Watershed Protection Program  (EWP Program) to carry out much-needed recovery projects to remedy damages caused by natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes. View here.

Bluff View Recreation Area Fully Recovered from 2008 Flood Damage
While storms rage, floodwaters rise and reservoirs fill throughout parts of western United States, things are calm at Mark Twain Lake in Northeast Missouri.  A balmy winter has produced favorable weather in this part of the Midwest. As a result, Mark Twain Lake's level has remained relatively steady in recent months. This last week the 21-mile-long reservoir stood nearly 5 feet below its normal pool of 606 feet above sea level. View here.

Michigan Sea Grant Welcomes New Extension Educator to Saginaw Bay Region
Kip Cronk, a long-time Bay City resident, has been hired as a Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator in the Saginaw Bay region. He began his new position on Jan. 30, 2017, and works out of the Bay County Michigan State University Extension office. Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan's coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs. View here.

EPA: East Chicago Residents Should Assume Lead Water Lines, Use Filter
Federal officials say all East Chicago residents should assume they have lead water lines and use a properly certified filter.  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientist Miguel Del Toral repeated the recommendation on Feb. 3 after initially making it last month while responding to questions from residents at an open house for the USS Lead Superfund site in the city's Calumet neighborhood. View here.

Learn more about NCRWN

NCRWN Fact Sheet
Want to see what we have been up to in the North Central Region Water Network? Check out our fact sheet for more details. 

Our Mission:

We work together to expand and enhance multi-state water outreach and research efforts across the North Central Region of the United States.

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