Open call for presentations: Soil and Water Conservation Society Annual Conference

The Soil and Water Conservation Society will host their 71st International Annual Conference in July this year, and accepting oral presentations, posters, symposia, and workshops until this Thursday, January 7.

The conference is titled “Managing Great River Landscapes,” and it’s in Louisville, Kentucky from Sunday, July 24 to Wednesday, July 27. This year’s conference features four submission tracks:

  • Conservation Systems in the Riparian Corridor
  • Water Quality Trading
  • Protecting Water Quality at a Multi-State Scale
  • 2016 General Conference Submissions – Great River Landscapes
    • Adaptive Management of Conservation Efforts
    • Conservation Economics and Policy
    • Conservation Models, Tools, and Technologies
    • Conservation in Nontraditional Agriculture
    • Outreach, Education, and Community Engagement
    • Social Sciences Informing Conservation
    • Soil Health Resources, Indicators, Assessment, and Management
    • Water Resources Assessment and Management

The full call for presentations is available for download on the SWCS Annual Conference page.

The Twelfth [Business] Day of Christmas: Iowa Water Conference “Extras”

On the twelfth [business] day of Christmas, the Iowa Water Center gave to me… lots more information on the “extra” happenings at the 2016 Iowa Water Conference. Registration for the 2016 conference will open in January. Stay tuned!

Poster Presentation & Student Contest

As in years past, posters will be displayed in the second floor lobby. Any attendee of the conference who would like to share information on their research or science-in-practice projects are welcome to submit an application. Registration to share a poster will be available online in January.

Poster authors are provided one 4’x8′ display board covered with white paper on top of a 6′ table. Posters should be set up Wednesday, March 23 between 8 and 10 a.m. Posters may be removed after 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 24.

Students are encouraged to entire their poster in the poster contest. First, second, and third place will receive cash awards. Contestants will be visited by judges between 2:10 and 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday to answer questions about their research.

Oral research presentations

Researchers wishing to present their recent work are invited to submit an abstract to Dr. Rick Cruse. Presenters will be given 30 minute slots during breakout session times at the conference (PowerPoint is available). Up to eight submissions will be accepted. Please send titles and abstracts to by February 1.

Iowa Water Priorities White Paper Session 2016

As a follow up to the 2015 white paper session, Dr. Rick Cruse will lead participants in a discussion to prioritize water resource management issues and opportunities in the state of Iowa. The white paper developed from the 2015 session was presented to the Water Resources Coordinating Council, published on the Iowa Water Center website and distributed at various conference. The 2016 white paper will receive additional strategic exposure. This session will take place at the close of the conference beginning at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 24. Individuals wishing to participate but unable to attend may submit their comments during the conference or when filling out the post-conference evaluation.

2016 Photo Contest

The Iowa Water Conference Photo Contest, a perennial favorite, will return in 2016. Each photographer can enter two photos that contain a water component – this year, they are asked to include a human or animal/fish element to the photograph.

Full contest rules are available online. Winners will be announced during the luncheon awards session on Thursday, March 24.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the last twelve [business] days of Christmas. Happy holidays, and we’ll see you for registration in January!

The Eleventh [Business] Day of Christmas: Workshop: The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior

On the eleventh [business] day of Christmas, the Iowa Water Center gave to me…more information on the optional workshop to occur after the close of the Iowa Water Conference beginning at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 24. The workshop will cost an additional fee of $50, payable during online registration (opening in early January) or on-site at the conference.

The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior – A skill-building workshop to support voluntary behavior change
Christie Manning, Macalester College

This workshop will describe in greater detail the tools introduced in the plenary talk: Engaging people to preserve water resources – Insights from Psychology. Psychological research offers many clues to why people behave in certain ways or make particular choices. The workshop will offer several exercises designed to help you:

(1)  Understand the audience you are trying to reach. Who is responsible for water pollution and/or resource protection? How does your audience think of themselves? What values do people in your community hold, and does water protection align with those values? Who is a credible messenger to represent water resource protection to this group, and what are the effective frames for communicating the message?

(2)  Change the social norms. Are the behaviors that lead to water resource issues unremarkable or accepted as normal? Are people uncomfortable speaking up about water issues because they don’t want to draw negative attention to themselves? Social norms like this keep people locked into bad habits. We’ll talk about how to change the social perception of water use; to create and communicate a new “normal” and help shift people’s behavior.

(3)  Make hidden information visible. Human beings, like other biological organisms, respond to information that strikes the senses. Yet many water issues are undetectable – pollutants are invisible and odorless, runoff tends to occur far from where people live, and “a million gallons” of reported water waste is abstract and intangible. We’ll discuss strategies for making invisible information concrete, visible, and sensory-based.

(4)  Build people’s competence. People have a basic psychological need to feel competent. When faced with a task that they don’t know how to do, or fear they may do badly, motivation drops. Solving water resource issues will involve learning new ways to do everyday actions – and this may threaten people’s competence and lead to resistance. In the workshop, we’ll cover methods to boost competence and motivation and support more sustainable community-wide water habits.

The workshop facilitator, Dr. Christie Manning, has spent the last 15 years applying psychological research to issues of natural resource use and sustainability.

The Tenth [Business] Day of Christmas: Breakouts: Nutrient Management

On the tenth [business] day of Christmas, the Iowa Water Center gave to me…descriptions for the breakout session Nutrient Management.

The following presentations will take place at the Iowa Water Conference in Ames on the morning of Thursday, March 24, 2016. Registration for the conference will open in January.

Urban-Rural Water Quality Partnerships
Dustin Miller, General Counsel, Iowa League of Cities and Jonathan Gano, Public Works Director, City of Des Moines; moderated by Sean McMahon, Executive Director, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance

Increasingly, Iowa cities are expressing interest in partnering with farmers to improve water quality. Municipal Waste Water Treatment facilities recognize that they can meet future permit obligations in a far more cost-effective manner if they invest in conservation practices such as saturated buffers, bioreactors and nutrient treatment wetlands, provided that they receive credits for the resulting nutrient loading reductions to apply to their future permit obligations. Additionally, urban partners such as the Greater Des Moines Partnership (GDP) are interested in finding solutions to water quality. Learn about innovative new strategies and partnerships to create new revenue streams for conservation.

Targeted Variable Rate Fertilizer Application: A rare win for water quality and farmers
Rebecca Kluckhohn, P.E., Principal, Wenck Associates, Inc.

Results of a pilot project illustrate that cost share and non-government enrollment processes motivated farmers to apply fertilizer at a variable rate based on soil test results. Changes in fertilizer application, crop yields, nutrient export and cost savings were tracked.

Real-time continuous nitrate monitoring provides insights into N loss mechanisms
Caroline Davis, Assistant Research Scientist, IIHR-University of Iowa

University of Iowa’s real-time monitoring network and water quality information system (WQIS) provide insights into N loss mechanisms, and help explain why stream N varies between watersheds and calendar periods. The on-line user tool disseminates this data to the public.

Runoff Risk: A Decision Support Tool for Nutrient Application Timing
Dustin Goering, Hydrologist, North Central River Forecast Center, National Weather Service

Current and proposed expansion of a decision support tool leveraging NWS real-time modeling to alert farmers and applicators of future unsuitable conditions for nutrient application. Successful adoption could lower nutrient losses from fields and provide economic as well as environmental benefits.

The Ninth [Business] Day of Christmas: Breakout: Green Infrastructure: Benefits & Maintenance

On the ninth [business] day of Christmas, the Iowa Water Center gave to me…descriptions for the breakout session Green Infrastructure: Benefits & Maintenance.

The following presentations will take place at the Iowa Water Conference in Ames on the morning of Thursday, March 24, 2016. Registration for the conference will open in January.

Pollinators and Water Quality: Five Key Connections
Dan Shaw, Vegetation Specialist/Landscape Ecologist, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

Water quality projects can provide benefits to a variety of pollinators  including honey bees, native bees, skippers, native flies, and butterflies. A few adjustments to project designs can maximize benefits for pollinators and help meet their needs for clean water sources, abundant floral resources, expanded corridors, protection from pesticides, and sufficient nesting sites. This presentation will focus on the link between water quality and pollinator projects, summarize research about pollinator habitat needs, and provide suggestions to guide project planning and design.

Up the Brick Street, with a paddle
Steven Diers, ICMA-CM, City Administrator, Charles City, Iowa

In 2010 and then again in 2012 the City of Charles City installed 26 blocks of permeable paved streets.  Due to the overall success of these projects the total number has increased to 28 blocks and there are plans for more in the near future.  In about the same time frame the city also built the state’s first whitewater course, which has brought new life and visitors to what was a “forgotten” part of town.  Learn the successes, challenges and lessons learned from these two innovative projects.

Evaluating the benefits of watershed and stream habitat improvements to fish and other aquatic life
Mike Steuck, Northeast Regional Fisheries Supervisor, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

This presentation explores improving fish populations through watershed and fish habitat improvement practices.

Stream Channel Restoration to Improve Dissolved Oxygen
Rebecca Kluckhohn, P.E., Principal, Wenck Associates, Inc.

Case study of a stream/riparian wetland complex restoration optimizing channel design to improve dissolved oxygen and protect downstream lakes from the soluble phosphorus export. DO concentrations improved, tolerant/super-tolerant species populations declined, improved Hilsenhoff Biotic Index, reduced P export.

The Eighth [Business] Day of Christmas: Current Technology

On the eighth[business] day of Christmas, the Iowa Water Center gave to me…descriptions for the breakout session Current Technology.

The following presentations will take place at the Iowa Water Conference in Ames on the morning of Thursday, March 24, 2016. Registration for the conference will open in January.

Introducing Iowa StreamStats version 4, a redesign of the U.S. Geological Survey application for estimating low-flow frequencies, flow durations, and flood frequencies for stream sites in Iowa
David Eash, Hydrologist, US Geological Survey

The USGS Iowa StreamStats version 4 application provides a redesigned user interface, streamlined core functionality, map interaction that is more intuitive for users, and improved communication with users for the estimation of 30 streamflow statistics for stream sites in Iowa.

Improving Water Quality through Precision Business Planning
David Muth, Jr., Senior Vice President, AgSolver, Inc.

There is currently a perception that economic and environmental performance are competing objectives. The reality is that once we understand how business performance is actually varying within our fields we can find opportunities to improve economic and environmental performance simultaneously.

Over land, water, air and cyberspace — Using new resources in watershed planning
Gregory Pierce, Water Resource Engineer, RDG Planning + Design

Learn how new technologies have changed the study of watersheds and how they were applied in preparing the Walnut Creek Watershed Plan in the rapidly changing 53,000 acre watershed in Central Iowa.

Using technology to fill information gaps on BMP benefits between on-the-ground implementation and large scale planning efforts
Drew Kessler, Scientist, Houston Engineering, Inc.

This presentation will demonstrate how emerging technologies are being used to fill the information gaps between regional, state, and watershed plans, and the benefits of specific on-the-ground conservation projects and practices.


The Sixth [Business] Day of Christmas: Day Two Plenaries

On the sixth [business] day of Christmas, the Iowa Water Center gave to me…descriptions for Thursday’s plenaries.

The following plenary sessions will be presented on March 24, 2016 at the Iowa Water Conference in Ames. Registration for the conference will open in January.

From Drought to El Niño, California’s Water Odyssey
Dr. Doug Parker, Director, California Institute for Water Resources and Strategic Initiative Leader for the Water Initiative

Critically low reservoir levels, fallowed fields, wells running dry and the Governor’s mandatory 25 percent water cutbacks for urban users have sharpened the focus on water management in California. California has always endured periodic droughts – and this one has been one of the worst. But this pattern isn’t new, and because of it California has become smarter about water use.  While we have seen huge gains in agricultural water use efficiency, there are still calls for agriculture to reduce water use or relinquish water to alternative uses (urban and environmental).  Yet, after 4 years of severe drought, California now finds itself preparing for a record El Niño that may produce record amounts of rainfall and the potential for flooding.  How does a state plan for drought and flood at the same time?  How can we encourage citizens to conserve water when forecasts are for heavy rains and potential flooding?  California’s water paradox requires new thinking in resources management.  This presentation will explore some of the ways the state has adapted to its volatility in its water supply and how its institutions must plan and carryout water management regimes in times of extreme weather events.

Looking Under the Hood: The Pros and Cons of Using Law to Achieve Environmental Quality
Professor Jerry L. Anderson, Richard M. and Anita Calkins Distinguished Professor of Law, Drake Law School

Congress enacted the Clean Water Act (CWA) when the family farm was still the norm and the major pollution problems emanated from industrial and municipal sources. While the law has made significant progress in those areas, agricultural pollution remains largely unaddressed. Several recent legal actions attempt to fit the square peg of the CWA into the round hole of present-day pollution problems. We will discuss the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit, the Mississippi River litigation, the Waters of the U.S. rule, and the Washington dairy farm case, and draw some conclusions about how current law works — and doesn’t work — to achieve our water quality goals.

Engaging people to preserve water resources: Insights from Psychology
Dr. Christie Manning, Visiting Assistant Professor, Dept. of Environmental Studies and Dept.  of Psychology, Macalester College

Nonpoint source water pollution comes about through millions of human decisions, some large and consequential (e.g. what will our community put on the roads to mitigate ice in winter?), some small and seemingly innocuous (e.g. should I water my lawn today?) When people make these decisions, the environmental consequences are often not their primary consideration. Instead, people’s choices and actions are driven by the set of circumstances and priorities they face in the moment. In this presentation I will introduce a set of psychological guidelines that can raise the importance of water resources in people’s minds and help create situations where the more environmentally sustainable choice is also the more appealing. The guidelines are drawn from research studies and include (1) know your community’s identity and values; (2) change the social norms; (3) make hidden information visible; and (4) build people’s competence.

The Fifth [Business] Day of Christmas: The Next Generation of Water Professionals

On the fifth [business] day of Christmas, the Iowa Water Center gave to me…a description of the breakout session The Next Generation of Water Professionals.

The following presentations will take place at the Iowa Water Conference in Ames on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Registration for the conference will open in January.

This breakout session is built a little differently than the other tracks because it IS different: The Next Generation of Water Professionals is being planned by students from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. It’s designed by the students with students in mind, but everyone at the conference is welcome to attend. The students have four, 30 minute blocks just like everyone else, but they’re mainly focusing on two topics: climate and communicating science.

The session will be set up to have Christopher J. Anderson from Iowa State University give a presentation on climate science, and following this presentation, an interactive and engaging discussion on the impact of climate change predictions on the future of water research and water management. After the break, the students will hear from Pat Boddy of RDG Planning and Design as well as Dr. Dara Wald from Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism  as part of a panel discussion on communicating science issues to the general public, particularly focused on climate and sustainability.

This session is a new feature of the Iowa Water Conference, and we’re excited to offer a venue for college students interested in water to meet and network. If you’re a student and are interested in learning more about this session and the other students attending the conference, contact Melissa Miller at


The Fourth [Business] Day of Christmas: Breakout: The Soil/Water Connection

On the fourth [business] day of Christmas, the Iowa Water Center gave to me…descriptions for the breakout session The Soil/Water Connection.

The following presentations will take place at the Iowa Water Conference in Ames on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Registration for the conference will open in January.

Farmed Potholes: Money maker or profit taker?
Adam Kiel, Environmental Programs and Services State Water Resource Manager, Iowa Soybean Association

This presentation will explore the agricultural productivity and profitability of pothole areas of the Des Moines Lobe landform region.  Yield data from 2006-2014 was combined LiDAR elevation data, market prices and cost of production estimates to determine if profitable conditions exist in pothole areas.

Paying farmers to grow clean water: an analysis of the benefits of CRP lands in Indian Creek
Kris Johnson, Senior Scientist, North America Water, The Nature Conservancy

Targeted restoration of agricultural land is a critical strategy to improve water quality and provide other benefits. This presentation will share results from biophysical-economic analysis of the return-on-investment provided by Conservation Reserve Program lands in the Indian Creek watershed.

Status and Update on River-Floodplain Re-Connectivity Research near Green Island, IA
Greg Nalley, Associate Director, USGS, Iowa Water Science Center

Non-structural alternatives to rebuilding damaged levees such as allowing land to return to natural floodplain have several benefits. Some of these benefits include ecosystem services as well as nutrient cycling.

Improving Water Quality – One Ravine at a Time
Todd Shoemaker, Water Resources Engineer, Wenck Associates, Inc.

Since 2000, Wenck Associates, Inc. has studied more than 60 bank stabilization projects throughout the Upper Midwest. Our experience has identified a parallel between streams and ravines that allows us to adapt and design bioengineered solutions that address the root cause of destabilization and erosion. This presentation will highlight before and after conditions of recent projects.

The Third [Business] Day of Christmas: Breakouts: Strategies for Social Engagement

On the third [business] day of Christmas, the Iowa Water Center gave to me…descriptions for the breakout session Strategies for Social Engagement.

The following presentations will take place at the Iowa Water Conference in Ames on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Registration for the conference will open in January.

1000s of Acres: Adding Conservation Partners
Angie Carter, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Welfare at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL & Jean Eells, E Resources Group

Women farmland owners are an important part of watershed level conservation changes in Iowa. Learn from researchers and landowners about how PhotoVoice, a participatory research method, is being used in the Raccoon River watershed to engage this important demographic.

Water in Iowa: Voicing the Lexicon
Chad Žmolek, Mike Todd, Joe Brekke and Ames High School Bluestem Institute students

Students from the Bluestem Institute at Ames High School share insights gained from their journey across Iowa examining water quality issues in collaboration with Project Localize, an educational program that helps classrooms identify and promote sustainable economic, cultural and social progress in their communities. As part of the project, students created unique posters shining light on terms related to water quality. Following the presentation, the students will be available during the conference break to answer questions about their posters, which will be on display in the second floor lobby area.

Iowa farmers’ perspectives on actions toward nutrient reduction strategy goals
J. Gordon Arbuckle, Jr., Associate Professor/Extension Sociologist, Department of Sociology, Iowa State University

In spring 2014, 1,128 Iowa farmers were surveyed to measure their knowledge of the strategy, their attitudes and concerns toward it and its goals, and, importantly, their willingness to take action to help meet those goals. A regression analysis was conducted to evaluate factors that influence farmers’ willingness to take steps to support the strategy. The results of this analysis will be shared.

retaiN Iowa: Engaging Farmers in On-farm Nitrogen Testing
Jamie Benning, Water Quality Program Manager, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach & Clare Lindahl, Executive Director, Conservation Districts of Iowa

retaiN seeks to give farmers the tools and information they need to make the best conservation decisions on their land, starting by helping farmers test for, understand and take steps to retain their nitrogen. The retaiN project developed nitrate testing kits that facilitate farmer engagement in collecting on-farm nitrate concentration data.  The retaiN kits were initially distributed in the summer and fall of 2015 through existing watershed projects and ISU Extension field specialists.  retaiN is a collaboration between Conservation Districts of Iowa and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and Iowa Learning Farms with support from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality.