2023 Request for Proposals

  • 2023 Request for Proposals

The Iowa Water Center (IWC), the Water Resources Research Institute for the State of Iowa as authorized by the Water Resources Research Act of 1964, seeks proposals for the annual 104(b) competitive grants program. This program consists of two opportunities for 2023: a targeted seed grant research competition, and a graduate student supplemental research competition. Funding for selected projects will be available beginning September 1, 2023 (funding availability dependent upon congressional budget action) for a one-year period. Projects should address local or regional water research needs.

IWC is administered through a partnership between Iowa State University and the U.S. Geological Survey. As such, project activities and expenditures will be subject to federal requirements under Uniform Guidance (UG). To read more about UG, visit: https://www.controller.iastate.edu/spa/PICostingGuide.pdf

Applicants are required to submit a letter of intent due February 20, 2023, with full proposals due March 1, 2023.

Questions can be directed toward the Program Contact:

 Irina Bassis


(515) 294-5650 (leave a voicemail message and your call will be returned)

Targeted Seed Grant Research Competition

This program is intended to address the most pressing water research needs in the state of Iowa as determined by the agencies and organizations that comprise the IWC Advisory Board (https://www.iowawatercenter.org/our-people/). For 2023, the board has identified the following area in which we are soliciting proposals up to $20,000 per project:

Proposals must address one of three priority areas:

  • Water related hazards and society – exploration of the intersections of land/water use, and water hazards, climate change, or drought response. Research emphasizing social and environmental justice regarding these topics is preferred.
  • Exploration and advancement of our understanding of harmful algae blooms (HABs). Proposals are sought that focus on innovations in monitoring the occurrence of HABs and algal toxins, research on factors that result in algal toxin production, and improvements in near-real time modeling and forecasting of toxin-producing blooms.
  • Emerging contaminants: research on the fate, persistence, transport, and impacts of contaminants on water resources and ecosystem dynamics. Research can include social and/or economic assessment of the spread, detection, impacts, solutions, and management. Contaminants include per-and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances, E. coli, and other physical, chemical, and biological contaminants.

Eligible applicants include faculty, staff, and graduate students at Iowa’s accredited colleges and universities. Priority will be given to proposals that engage early career faculty and/or graduate and undergraduate students.

IWC anticipates funding for approximately 1-2 targeted seed grants in 2023. Due to federal funding cycle constraints, the estimated date of funds expended must be by August 31, 2024. The deadline is subject to change as the funding availability from USGS has not been released.

Proposals must be submitted by email to iowawatercenter@iastate.edu with the subject line: 2023 IWC Seed Research Competition – [Your Last Name]

Graduate Student Supplemental Research Competition

This program is designed to allow students to complete additional research objectives or products beyond the scope of their current water related funded project. Funding of up to $5,000 for one year is available to graduate students nearing completion of their program of study or those with well-established, active research projects. (The readiness of the student to embark on additional research is subjective, and students should consult with their major professor before deciding to apply.) The proposed budget must include funds for publication costs. Students will be required to submit their research to peer-reviewed publications.

The Iowa Water Center anticipates funding for approximately three graduate student supplemental grants in 2023. Due to federal funding cycle, the estimated date of funds expended must be by August 31, 2024. The deadline is subject to change as the funding availability from USGS has not been released.

Proposals must be submitted by email to iowawatercenter@iastate.edu with the subject line: 2023 IWC Graduate Research Competition – [Your Last Name]

Funds from this program can be requested for student support, hourly wages, supplies, local travel, analytical costs, and publication costs. Requesting federal funds for travel to conferences to present research is not allowed. Additional cost categories that are imperative for the project are allowed. Applicants are encouraged to contact IWC with questions prior to submitting the proposal.

Investigators will be required to provide documentation of committed matching funds. The U.S. Geological Survey requires a 1:1 nonfederal to federal funds match. The sponsor will not pay indirect costs. Researchers are encouraged to use forfeited indirect costs as a portion of the required match.

Intent to Apply

Applicants must notify IWC via email (iowawatercenter@iastate.edu) of proposal submission intention by February 20, 2023, at 5 pm. The notice of intent should include a working title of the project, as well items 1-2, 4-6 from the proposal guidelines (see page 3 and 4 of this RFP), and four to six names, including contact information, of potential reviewers. Reviewers should be qualified to evaluate the scientific merit of the study design without conflict of interest to the applicant. Reviewers can be either within or outside the state or the applicant’s home institution.

Conflict of Interest for Reviewers

The following guidelines and situations are determined to be conflicts of interest, and therefore, individuals who fall into these categories should not be suggested as reviewers for proposals:

  • Individuals who serve on thesis, dissertation, or advising committee to the PI or Co-PI(s)
  • Individuals who have served as a co-author on publications with the PI or Co-PI(s) at least once in the past three years
  • Individuals who are colleagues with the PI or Co-PI(s) within the same department or similar unit for the past three years
  • Individuals who supervise or who have supervised the PI or Co-PI(s)
  • Individuals who have a direct or indirect financial interest in the proposal
  • Individuals who have a personal relationship with the PI or Co-PI(s)

Proposal Guidelines

Proposals must include the information listed below in the order presented and identified by the corresponding number. The body of the proposal (items 10 through 16) should not exceed six (6) single-spaced pages in 12-point, Times New Roman font.

  1. Principal Investigator(s): Provide name, academic rank, university, email address, and phone number of the principal investigators. Graduate students should list their advisor as a co-investigator.
  2. Title: Concise but descriptive.
  3. Project Type: State “Research.”
  4. Focus Categories: Choose from Page 6 of this RFP.
  5. Research Category: Choose the one category that most closely applies from the following: Water Scarcity and Availability, Water Hazards and Climate Variability, Water Quality, Water Policy, Planning, and Socioeconomics, Watershed and Ecosystem Function, Water Technology and Innovation, or Workforce Development and Water Literacy.
  6. Keywords: Enter keywords descriptive of the work.
  7. Start Date: Enter the actual beginning date for the project.
  8. End Date: Enter the estimated end date for the project.
  9. Congressional District: of the university where the work is to be conducted.
  10. Abstract: Provide a brief (one-page) description of the problem, methods, and objectives.
  11. Statement of regional or state water problem: Include an explanation of the need for the project, who wants it, and why.
  12. Statement of results or benefits: Specify the type of information that is to be gained and how it will be used.
  13. Nature, scope, and objectives of the project, including a timeline of activities
  14. Methods, procedures, and facilities: Provide enough information to permit evaluation of the technical adequacy of the approach to satisfy the objectives.
  15. Related research: Show by literature and communication citations the similarities and differences of the proposed project to completed or on-going work on the same topic.
  16. Training potential: Estimate the number of graduate and undergraduate students, by degree level, who are expected to receive training in the project.
  17. Budget breakdown: 104b-budget-sheet (EXCEL fillable form )
  18. Budget justification: budget justification (Word document)

See Page 7 of the RFP for details.

  1. Investigator’s qualifications: Include resume(s) of the principal investigator(s). No resume shall exceed two pages or list more than 15 pertinent publications.
  2. Cost Share Documentation. Cost share letters to support the budget and budget justification. If you are a PI at a non-Iowa State University institution, a transmittal letter from your Department of Sponsored Programs is required.
  3. Data Management Plan (DMP): This brief supplementary document (3-5 sentences) should describe how the proposal will conform to USGS policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results and associated data. A valid DMP may include only the statement that no detailed plan is needed (e.g., “No data are expected to be produced from this project”), as long as the statement is accompanied by a clear justification. This supplementary document may include:
  • the types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced during the project
  • the standards to be used for data and metadata format and content (where existing standards are absent or deemed inadequate, this should be documented along with any proposed solutions or remedies)
  • policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements
  • provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives
  • plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of free public access to them.

Deadline: Please email the proposal as a Word file with accompanying excel spreadsheets (no pdf files) to iowawatercenter@iastate.edu by close of business day on March 1, 2023. 

Iowa State University applicants: this opportunity is considered internal, and you do not need to submit a Goldsheet before applying.

Evaluation Criteria for Funding
Proposals will be reviewed for scientific merit by scientists not involved with this RFP. This information will be used by IWC staff and the IWC Advisory Board to rank proposals for quality and relevance.

Review criteria include:

1.       Scientific and technical merit (20%)
2.       Applicability to the research, education, and training needs identified by the advisory council (20%)
3.       Competence of the PI for carrying out the proposed study efficiently and effectively (15%)
4.       Appropriateness of submitted budget to the proposed study (15%)
5.       Student educational opportunities arising from the proposed study (10%)
6.       Potential for technology transfer via workshops, tech reports, journal articles, theses, etc. (10%)
7.       Feasibility of completing the work in the proposed timeframe (5%)
8.       Quality of proposal: grammar, structure, readability (5%)

Awarded Proposals Expectations

Upon notification of award, IWC staff will work with the principal investigator (PI) to make budget and narrative adjustments as recommended by the advisory board and in accordance with USGS requirements. IWC submits projects for federal approval in late April as part of its “base grant” package. Notice of funding is anticipated in late August. If this timeline is delayed for any reason (most commonly due to congressional budget setting), IWC staff will communicate with the PI. IWC will make every effort to accommodate projects so that they are completed in the time allotted.

Once USGS releases FY23 funds to IWC, work can begin on the project. IWC staff will work with PIs and their home department/institution to set up the project account. IWC will periodically monitor funding on the project to ensure funds are spent in a timely manner. It is the responsibility of the PI to oversee appropriateness and allowability of project expenditures.

PIs will have the opportunity throughout the project period to be featured in photos, videos, and written content produced by IWC to promote their research.

PIs are required to submit a final report at the completion of the project. This brief report should include significant findings or accomplishment, awards, publications, and presentations, and the number of students involved in the project. Additionally, PIs will work with IWC staff to prepare a final technical report, published by IWC.

Finally, awardees are expected to give a poster or presentation at the Iowa Water Conference or equivalent local event (e.g., Prairie Lakes Conference, Iowa Groundwater Association meeting) at or near the conclusion of the project.

Focus Categories

Acid Deposition ACD

Agriculture AG

Climatological Processes CP

Conservation COV

Drought DROU

Ecology ECL

Economics ECON

Education EDU

Floods FL

Geomorphological Processes GEOMOR

Geochemical Processes GEOCHE

Groundwater GW

Hydrogeochemistry HYDGEO

Hydrology HYDROL

Invasive Species INV

Irrigation IG

Law, Institutions, & Policy LIP

Management & Planning M&P

Methods MET

Models MOD

Nitrate Contamination NC

Non-Point Pollution NPP

Nutrients NU

Radioactive Substances RAD

Recreation REC

Sediments SED

Solute Transport ST

Surface Water SW

Toxic Substances TS

Treatment TRT

Wastewater WW

Water Quality WQL

Water Quantity WQN

Water Supply WS

Water Use WU

Wetlands WL

Research Categories
Biological Sciences

Climate and Hydrologic Processes
Ecological Processes


Ground-water Flow and Transport

Social Sciences

Water Quality

Budget Justification

 Salaries and Wages: Provide estimated hours and the rate of compensation proposed for each individual (X hours @ $X). Tuition remission and other forms of compensation paid as or in lieu of wages to students performing necessary work are allowable, provided that the tuition or other payments are reasonable compensation for the work performed and are conditioned explicitly upon the performance of necessary work.

  1. Fringe Benefits: Provide the overall fringe benefit rate applicable to each category of employee proposed in the project.
  2. Supplies: Indicate separately the amounts proposed for office, laboratory, computing, and field supplies. Be specific.
  3. Equipment: Identify non-expendable personal property having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost of more than $5,000 per unit. If fabrication of equipment is proposed, list parts and materials required for each and show costs separately from the other items.
  4. Services or Consultants: Identify the specific tasks for which these services, consultants, or subcontracts would be used. Estimate amount of time required and the hourly or daily rate. Provide a detailed list (i.e., sample analysis: 1000 samples @ $8/sample.)
  5. Travel: Provide purpose and estimated costs for all travel. Travel opportunities must be specific (i.e., travel to XYZ conference in XYZ location on XYZ dates) and costs must be itemized (e.g., airfare, lodging, parking, per diem). No international travel is permitted.
  6. Other Direct Costs: Itemize costs not included elsewhere, including publication costs. Costs for services and consultants should be included and justified under “Services or Consultants” above.
  7. Indirect Costs: No indirect costs are associated with these grants. Please use forfeited indirect costs as part of the required match.

 Proposal Checklist

  • Read RFP in totality
  • Submit intent to apply via email to iowawatercenter@iastate.edu by February 20, 2023, by 5 p.m. (including a list of potential reviewers)
  • Complete proposal guidelines
  • Complete budget with a 1:1 nonfederal to federal funds match
  • Submit proposal as a Word document with accompanying excel spreadsheets by March 1, 2023, 5 p.m. to iowawatercenter@iastate.edu
    • Proposals must be submitted by email to iowawatercenter@iastate.edu with the subject line:
      • 2023 IWC Seed Research Competition – [Your Last Name]; or
      • 2023 IWC Graduate Research Competition – [Your Last Name]

2022 Iowa Water Center and Iowa Nutrient Research Center Grant Opportunity

The Iowa Water Center and Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University will jointly fund research to explore the linkages between water quality and social well-being for Iowa communities.

The research focus for this request for proposals is social justice and equity issues surrounding populations impacted by water pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus. By seeking to understand downstream impacts and social well-being in relation to nutrient issues, the RFP will address the wellbeing of all members of society within the larger agroecosystem of the Mississippi River Basin.

Potential topics include:

  • The intersection between water quality and water quantity
  • Assessment of nutrient impacts on tourism/recreation,
  • Water quality impacts on rural communities and water utility associations,
  • Management and monitoring strategies by downstream communities,
  • Assessment of community and watershed coalition activities to address nutrient management issues.

Studies focused on human-health impacts do not qualify for this RFP.

Projects must be led by Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, or the University of Northern Iowa. Priority will be given to proposals that engage early career faculty or engage graduate and undergraduate students. Other research partners can include local communities, utilities, agencies, businesses, and landowners.

Applicants must submit a proposal intention by November 1, 2021, 5 p.m. CDT, with full proposals due November 15, 2021, 5 p.m. CDT. Funded projects may start as early as March 2022.

The total amount available is $60,000 to support one or multiple projects. Funding for this grant opportunity comes from the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and the Iowa Water Center. Matching funds are not required for this grant competition.

Access full RFP here.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert McFarlane

Water Scholars Book Club 2021 July Book. Follow along as we post book reviews, resource lists, and content each month to support learning about a particular water topic.

By Laura Frescoln, Iowa Water Center

Quick Summary of the Book: Robert McFarlane takes us on a journey to the “underland” as he explores locations around the world that lie beneath our feet. This voyage is exquisitely detailed through our human senses and a cast of characters he meets along the way.

Why we selected it: Water is a fundamental force in the formation of the earth and the underland. Through the authors eyes, the reader gets a sense of the water’s presence and importance both in the formation and evolution of our culture and the physical aspects of our world over ‘deep time’.

I love exploring. Every summer I choose a new place for my two daughters and me to break from routine and experience something new. I do admit though, that apart from some “cave tours” that provided a sense of security through the sheer number of visitors that participate, we have not considered exploring the vast underworld. For one, I am sure I would be traveling alone, abandoned by my less adventurous kids who have a strong desire to survive. Secondly, I do have some claustrophobic tendencies. In fact, I cannot wear a hood.

Despite these challenges to explore the “underland” myself, I was intrigued by this book and the author’s experiences. McFarlane attributes the reluctance of “explorers” to dive into this world as intuitive and societal.

“Why go low? It is a counter-intuitive action, running against the grain of sense and the gradient of spirit (Pg. 11)…An aversion to the underland is buried in language. In many of the metaphors we live by, height is celebrated but depth is despised. To be ‘uplifted’ is preferable to being ‘depressed’ or ‘pulled down’.” (Pg.12)

McFarlane uses “deep time” as a metric to understand the evolution of this world.

“‘Deep Time’ is the chronology of the underland. Deep time is the dizzying expanses of Earth history that stretch away from the present moment. Deep time is measured in units that humble the human instant: epochs and aeons, instead of minutes and years. Deep time is kept by stone, ice, stalactites, seabed sediments and the drift of tectonic plates. Deep time opens into the future as well as the past. The Earth will fall dark when the sun exhausts its fuel around 5 billion years. We stand on our toes, as well as our heels, on a brink.” (Pg. 15)

Considering the metric of ‘deep time’ is almost unthinkable and certainly overwhelming to us humans who have such short memories and focused attention on the present. The author recognizes this and writes…

“There is dangerous comfort to be drawn from deep time. What does our behavior matter, when Homo sapiens will have disappeared from the Earth in the blink of a geological eye?…We should resist such inertial thinking; indeed we should urge its opposite – deep time as a radical perspective, provoking us to action not apathy.” (Pg. 15)

McFarlane uses quotes from other notable writers and scientist to introduce and sometime emphasize relevant points along this journey. As he notes, we are in the Anthropocene age which is largely influenced by human activity.

“But the Anthropocene, for all its faults, also issues a powerful shock and challenge to our self-perception as a species. It exposes both the limits of our control over the long-term processes of the planet, and the magnitude of the consequences of our activities…The Anthropocene asks of us the question memorably posed by the immunologist Jonas Salk: ‘Are we being good ancestors?’” (Pg. 77)

In the chapters that follow the introduction, McFarlane recounts expeditions in Britain, Europe (including “invisible cities”), Norway, Finland and Greenland. The adventures that follow throughout the pages are a rich collection of vivid descriptions of the both the physical world beneath our feet and the shared world of the people around us and beside us. This community is made up of the guides/friends who accompanied the author, those who came before and left their mark and those still to come. This community added layers of color, clarity and complexity.

The following excerpts from the introduction gives the reader a glimpse of what can be expected in the journey ahead…

“The way into the underland is through the riven trunk of an old ash tree. …Near the ash’s base its trunk splits into a rough rift, just wide enough that a person might slip into the tree’s hollow heart – and there drop into the dark space that opens below.” (Pg. 3)

We soon discover that the old ash is but one of the many passageways into the underworld. Each entrance formed through “deep time” as a footprint marking the geological and human forces at play.

“…down in the labyrinth beneath the riven ash. The same three tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter was is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful.”(Pg. 8)

Throughout the book as a whole, the author explores all three as he weaves humanity and the landscape together in a way that allows the reader to think, feel and wonder about the invisible world where few have traveled.

Taming America’s Waterways

Water Scholars Book Club 2021 June Book. Follow along as we post book reviews, resource lists, and content each month to support learning about a particular water topic. 

In Tyler J. Kelley’s book, “Holding Back the River: The struggle against nature on America’s Waterways,” the author explores the history of the US attempting to tame its rivers through engineering and infrastructure policies, as well as gives an in-depth look at the people working to hold the water within the streambanks.

By Hanna Bates, Assistant Director, Iowa Water Center

Quick Summary of the Book: The investigative reporting of the author provides an in-depth look at the history of water infrastructure in the Midwest and the policies that sought to conquer and control our waterways. But as we face climate change, we may need to think beyond rebuilding old systems and considering a new mindset as we consider the power of our waterways.

Why we selected it: There has been increasing focus on the aging infrastructure that supports transport and commerce in the US with the introduction of the American Jobs Plan. This book explores the aging infrastructure that makes the water systems in the US navigable for commerce, particularly agriculture commodities. This book heavily focuses on the complexity of work the Army Corps of Engineers has to secure streambanks with levee systems along Midwestern waterways to minimize risk and damages. In 2019, Iowa was subject to breached levees that led to billions of dollars in damages due to flood waters in Southwestern Iowa.


When I was a kid growing up in Southwest Iowa, I lived on a farm about a mile from town. A major divider between us and access to groceries, the post office, and school was the Nishnabotna River. One summer the river crested so high it spread into nearby low-lying fields, a nearby business or two, and eventually spread over the highway, our only access to town. What was normally a 10-minute drive would become an over 40-minute to drive in the opposite direction to find a dry road on a roundabout drive to access town. These memories came flooding back as I read through Kelley’s investigative reporting on policy attempts to tame the water that often fails nature or vulnerable populations along the water.

“You don’t own the land; the land owns you” – Faulkner

Kelley explores river management of the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Ohio rivers predominantly through the history of the Army Corps of Engineers and their purpose to maintain infrastructure on US waterways to support the navigation of commodities along with providing risk reduction for flooding disasters along waterways and coastal lines.

The author also explores belief systems regarding flooding and flood management that dictate decision-making for those along the river, often showing that our perspectives of water has not kept pace with the ever-growing threat of climate change and increasing rain events throughout the Midwest. The typical approach in the past is that when fields and homes flood, we rebuild again. Significant floods are considered rare, and so once an event happens some may assume that it will never happen again. The prelude opens with the story of a farmer in Southwest Iowa. Following a previous flood event in 2011, the farmer cancelled his flood insurance in 2018 and assumed that the protection measures in the area had been robust to protect his land. He states in the book that he would not anticipate a flooding event like in 2011 until after he was dead. Then the 2019 floods happened and there was little he could do except move the grain that he could from his storage bins and abandon his farm and home.

Throughout the history of water management, the author tells the stories of individual farmers as well as communities that are impacted by flooding disasters. The author describes that risk reduction for flooding is often on a cost-benefit analysis that does not necessarily always take in the disproportionate impact land ownership and access has on communities within a floodplain. A significant example of this was a 2011 flooding event that impacted Pinhook, Missouri and disproportionally impacted a small community of black farmers. To reduce the risk of flooding in higher density areas, the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway was activated, which meant deliberately breaching a levee in the floodway. According to reports, residents of Pinhook were given very little to no warning or assistance to evacuate.

Through these stories and the policies that led to them, the author concludes with a focus on river geomorphology and argues that no amount of engineering and maintaining the infrastructure approach of the past can keep the river in place and tamed for our functional use. Rather, as the last chapter is titled, we must “retreat and fortify.” Kelley states that the best approach can be learned from nations such as The Netherlands, who take both a resilience and an anticipatory approach to watershed basin management. This takes a new mindset when considering flooding. Kelley states, “… give up something, or lose everything.” (193). An approach such as this involves thinking within a watershed approach for water management and taking in all voices of those within those watershed communities.

Communities can establish a balance between what the water will take and benefits the community may gain through trade-offs that the federal government can broker to protect them. To incentivize leaving land behind, policies could fund community-building assets such as parks and other recreational benefits. Lastly, this approach also means not being afraid to leave places and practices behind. These are things we may have emotional and cultural attachments to, which in the end, letting them go could mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Follow the Water

Water Scholars Book Club 2021 May Book. Follow along as we post book reviews, resource lists, and content each month to support learning about a particular water topic. 

In David Owen’s book, “Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River,” every drop of water is spoken for whether it exists or not from the top of the Colorado River to the bottom.

By Hanna Bates, Assistant Director, Iowa Water Center

Quick summary of the book: David Owen, a writer for The New Yorker, takes the reader on a journey along the Colorado River, including the politics and law dictating how the water supplies cities and industries to the point where it runs dry in the Southwest. Access to water supply is often under contention between states, cities, and neighbors for who has the right to the water.

Why we selected it: Water availability is a significant topic as we move towards hotter climates and other environmental impacts that shrink available water supply, particularly in the Western United States. As of April, the federal government could issue a landmark water shortage declaration for upcoming water availability projections that could even threaten hydropower at the Hoover Dam. The State of Iowa is not immune to water shortages with the 2021 growing season expected to have ongoing drought issues in parts of the state that impacts productivity in one of the most fertile landscapes.

It was not too long ago I took my first plane ride out West to Denver, Colorado. As I traveled across states, grids in Iowa changed to perfect irrigation circles in Nebraska and Colorado like a quilted patchwork of verdant circles within a background of a brown, dry landscape. Although a bird’s eye view from the sky of agriculture is an obvious view of how water is allocated out West, there is much more to how water is used that reaches cities, suburbs, and many other industries.

Owen’s storied journey along the Colorado River gives both a bird’s eye view from a plane tour and an on the ground perspective of how water is claimed and given utilitarian purpose to support infrastructure throughout the Southwest. Water availability for household use, electricity, farming, recreation, industrial uses, and entertainment (think water fountains in Las Vegas) are all categories the Colorado River is diverted to support. In this book, Owen explores the state and federal laws that led to how water is diverted for these purposes and how the solution is not always simple as shutting off the tap to certain water uses.

Each chapter in the book explores a region or an important focal point to the story of water in the West. Early laws and management often set the context for how water is managed in modern day. The approach to water, and to the environment in general, by policymakers in the early US was not to protect natural resources, but to tame natural resources for the purpose of putting it to functional use to support settlers and expanding industry in the West. Starting in the Rockies and Denver area, Owen describes the 143 years of complex water law that factors in use by public agencies and private persons wherein an individual can have water rights by seniority over others along the river. This includes stories of over appropriation within the book where the “paper” right to water is more than the “wet” water that is available for use.

Owen’s exploration of water efficiency in the book touches on the history of water as being seen as something that only has utility to humans and not the greater role that water has within an ecosystem. The book encourages the reader to think of themselves as citizens of a watershed to have a better approach to water management. Water conservation and being more efficient with resources is not always a simple answer to protecting water resources. Owen states, the more people tend to conserve in one area, they tend to spend it in another area. Additionally, the more efficient a process is, the more affordable it is, which results in greater use of that particular thing. For example, Owen states in the book:

“A few years ago, I made a serious effort to get better about turning off the lights in my house, and my wife’s and my electricity consumption went down by a noticeable amount. But our overall energy consumption didn’t fall, because the money we saved on our electric bills helped to pay for a big anniversary trip that we took to Europe, and that means that the real impact of our reduction in household electricity use was merely to transform natural gas into jet fuel. As we get better at doing things, we do more things.”

― David Owen, Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River

The decline in water availability is often outpaced by efforts to conserve water. Lake Mead, a reservoir established with the creation of the Hoover Dam is the largest within the US. Almost 100% of the inflow comes from the Colorado River, but according to Owen, the lake levels have been declining at a staggering level. This not only impacts the recreation economy on the reservoir, but accessibility of the water for users downstream. The declines in water availability have led to contention among many Southwest states over the right to water, which often turn to litigation to protect their right to water to support growing populations and sprawling cities. Most importantly, by the time the river reaches Mexico, the river is a dry delta which highlights disparities related to water accessibility that expand beyond economics.

The book concludes with many potential solutions for how to address water availability, although the solutions are much larger than a single chapter at the end. Owen provides a thoughtful reflection on history reaching out the present to shape our mindset around water as something that should provide function for society, otherwise it should be considered a waste. The reader is challenged to consider the value of water outside of economic purpose. Water provides external value to the vitality of ecosystems within a watershed as well as connects people to a sense of place within their environment through play, recreation, identity, and improved mental health.

Up Next in June: Holding Back the River: The struggle against nature on America’s Waterways – Tyler J. Kelley

Exemplifying Resilience

It has already been almost two weeks since the 2021 Iowa Water Conference, and I am floored by the response and interaction that occurred during the three-day virtual event. We not only had a community of Iowa water professionals join us, but several professionals from states in the Midwest and beyond for our biggest program yet that included over 70 presentations and over 80 speakers. 

This is the fifth Iowa Water Conference for which I have been on the coordination team, but the first that required significant adaptation after a year of pandemic and weather-related challenges. In 2020, COVID-19 impacted our work and home environments and drew a greater focus on efforts to make clean water accessible and protect natural environments as COVID-19 brought many people outdoors. Later in the year, a derecho storm swept through the state, which blighted urban areas and flattened field-after-field of crop acres. At the most basic level, these challenges in 2020 upset the certainty and comforts that we usually experience in our day-to-day lives. 

This made the theme of this conference an obvious choice – resilience. 

The conference served as an opportunity to celebrate the resiliency of our water resources and those who work to protect them every day. Multiple scales of resilient systems exist throughout the state that serve as lessons and models for how we can adapt to a vision of inclusive, resilient water resource management. Tales from the watershed level highlighted efforts to improve nutrient management, mitigate flooding, and establish watershed citizens to increase awareness and improve day-to-day actions. Highlights from research examined vulnerabilities in the landscape, highlighted opportunities to engage farmers and citizens, as well as demonstrated innovative approaches to assess flood risk and model ways to mitigate future impacts. 

At the closing plenary, Hank Kohler took us on a journey exploring his relationship to water in his life and how he seeks to raise awareness and raise funds for the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium’s Conservation Action through Advocacy Research and Engagement program. Over the summer, Hank will lead a canoeing expedition down the Mississippi River. He will be accompanied by key partners along the way, which will be highlighted on social media and press coverage. This inspirational message captures the importance of giving back to water since it has given us so much. You can follow Hank’s journey on Facebook here

Lastly, I would like to invite you to join us in Dubuque on March 29-30th at the Grand River Center for our 2022 Iowa Water Conference. In the meantime, please keep doing what you are doing to serve communities and expand the boundaries of research to improve water resources. 

P.S. Recordings and supplemental material will be published soon from the conference! 


Written by Hanna Bates, Assistant Director for the Iowa Water Center

Building Community Through Conservation

Research, action, and community. 

These are the building blocks of Water Scholar, Dr. Linda Shenk’s ongoing research project that brings together a diverse community-university team—researchers and students from Iowa State, the City of Ames, and community residents at the Crawford Condominiums in Campustown. What they are building together is a way of fostering community through conservation—a combination that, research studies suggest, is a key for creating resilient communities.

For the past two years, Dr. Shenk has been collaborating with Water Scholar hydrologist Dr. Kristie Franz to create a storytelling-based computer simulation model called “Watershed Community.” Shenk describes that the model “encourages individuals and community groups to join their personal stories of land, weather, water, and community with the stories of science. Often, scientists and communities are encouraged to tell stories to each other to build connections and understanding. The “Watershed Community” model is designed to allows researchers and community members to tell stories with other each and then put those stories into action.” 

 Dr. Shenk finds working with the Crawford group inspiring and loved working with them in part because “you can hear the diversity of people and ideas among us, and that has been one of the most exciting aspects of our collaboration.” Since Fall of 2019, the following group has been working together:

Team Members 

● Dr. Linda Shenk and Dr. Kristie Franz (professors at Iowa State University) 

● Janeen Christy & Bob Anders (Crawford Condominium residents) 

● Dhruv Raturi & Michael Moreno (Students at Iowa State University) 

● Liz Calhoun (Stormwater Resource Analyst) 

This collaboration started as a conversation between Liz Calhoun with City of Ames and Crawford residents, Janeen Christy & Bob Anders. Calhoun then suggested including Dr. Shenk in these conversations because of her focused research on community building and sustainability. That led to adding the help of Dhruv Raturi and Michael Moreno, who are current Iowa State students. The whole group came together at Dr. Shenk’s “Watershed Community” model event back in November of 2019. At that event, the group had dinner together, told their stories with the model, explored possibilities, and devised some thoughts for projects that are coming to fruition. Dedicated to working together even as the COVID-19 pandemic changed their plans, they have met virtually and done socially distanced action projects—from tree plantings to composting. Planting native prairie plants is a future goal.

The Crawford Condominiums in Campustown consist of residents who are 55 years and older. This fairly new community is an adaptive reuse condo with a large shared, natural space. “This is the first time for many of us where we don’t have our own little corner of the world to garden, so I think many of us were hungry for that,” says Janeen Christy, Crawford Condominium Resident. “Everyone has a different lifestyle, even when it comes to composting. It was more than just creating a great compost bucket for everyone. The main goal was to build a resilient community between the current residents by bringing together conservation practices.” As a result of this collaboration, she adds “We are this really unlikely, motley crew—Boomers, Gen X, Y, Z;  different genders, different ethnicities, different ages.” And it all works!

Although the initial plan was to have that native planting project, they have found tree planting and composting better first projects to tackle during the pandemic. Dhruv Raturi speaks about dealing with food waste and states that “Cooking is good, but food waste is bad. I found that I was slowly manipulating people into worrying about climate change.” Practices such as maintaining soil health and preventing climate change are important to maintain a sustainable future. This group also believes that focusing on small bits of work is a part of the larger process. Projects like these are more likely to be achieved with the help of people in the local community because they get that sense of fulfillment when helping each other. 

This diverse community-university team is always open to working with new people and learning from one another. They have plans underway for more projects and collaborations—a balance of greening the community and supporting each other that they express has been so important to their resilience during the pandemic. As Bob Anders put it, “For me I had no idea that this would spread beyond my living community, and it has. It has brought in a whole new group of friends: people who have interests in common, people that I would have never had an opportunity to meet and be a part of their lives.  I believe in the legacy idea—look that is tree I planted, but what has given me is pleasure in the present, and that is important to me, especially in the present time [COVID]. It’s been a part of my resilience.”

By: Kelyin Chng, Outreach and Engagement Assistant

We Proudly Present GISW 2020

Getting into Soil and Water 2020

In its eleventh year, Getting into Soil and Water remains dedicated to educating a broader audience on soil and water conservation and the preservation of environmental quality. Soil and water affect our lives in hidden and not-so-hidden ways, providing a medium for food production, delivering ecosystem services, and sequestering carbon dioxide to mitigate global climate change. As co-editors of the 2020 edition, we have had the special opportunity to explore these issues and trends in soil and water, and to create a publication to share others’ insights and research findings with you. Our team of three co-editors is made up of Jacob Wright, Shannon Breja, and Justin Hunter. We wanted to share with you a little bit about ourselves and what soil and water conservation means to us.


Jacob Wright: I am a senior in agronomy and environmental studies and joined the Soil and Water Conservation Club in the spring of 2017. Growing up on a dairy farm in Virginia, I always saw numerous articles and heard discussion about nutrient contamination in the Chesapeake Bay. This peaked my interest for soil and water conservation, and being a part of this club and publication has allowed me to learn more about current research and issues in this field of study. I have learned a lot from co-editing through reading different research studies and seeing the diverse perspectives and ideas that came together to showcase the variety of opportunities in soil and water conservation.

Shannon Breja: I am a junior studying agronomy and seed science, and I became a member of the Soil and Water Conservation Club in the fall of 2017. Although I grew up surrounded by agriculture, I did not realize the urgency of conservation until coming to college. With the environmental impacts of agriculture becoming increasingly prevalent, the club has allowed me to learn about current conservation issues. The club has also allowed me to be co-editor of this publication to share some of these relevant issues and provide different perspectives about them. My hope for all of you is that Getting into Soil and Water will increase your knowledge of conservation and strengthen your interests in it.

Justin Hunter: I am a senior in agronomy and joined the Soil and Water Conservation Club in the fall of 2017. My interest in conservation started my freshman year of college. Learning about the effects of soil erosion and water contamination motivated me to always try to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. This club has allowed me to connect with people who share the same motivation as myself and to gain additional knowledge on agricultural conservation practices. Being a co- editor on this year’s publication has brought great opportunities in networking with authors and learning more about the current conservation practices that are working today. I hope this publication gets the readers thinking about conservation and how these practices can improve both agriculture and the environment.


This publication would not be possible without the great help of our committee members. We would like to thank them for their dedication to making this publication unique and informative. We would also like to thank our advisors, Dr. Rick Cruse, Dr. Bradley Miller, Hanna Bates, and Heidi Ackerman for their knowledge and support throughout the publication process. They have been essential to this publication, and we are so thankful for them.

Finally, we need to send a huge thanks to you, our readers. Your support has given us the opportunity to create the eleventh edition of Getting into Soil and Water, and we are excited to continue these publications for years to come.

Visit the full publication on the ISU Soil and Water Conservation Club page.

Jadidoleslam Selected as a Recipient for the Iowa Water Center’s Research Grant Competition

Written by Meghan Hanley

Ames, Iowa – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) annually administers a statewide grant competition known as the IWC Graduate Student Supplemental Research Competition.

The purpose of this funding is to help graduate students complete additional research objectives beyond the scope of their current work, with an emphasis on submitting their research to peer-reviewed publications.

Navid Jadidoleslam has been selected, along with three other graduate students across Iowa, as recipients for this year’s grant competition. Each recipient will receive funding for various different research studies.

Jadidoleslam’s proposed research is focused around developing software to improve the way hydrologic data are visualized and published. This new open-source software is named Hydrovise.

The goal behind Hydrovise is to make the process of hydrologic data visualization and analysis more user friendly. Hydrovise allows users to assess data in space, time and variable data cubes – without using a database. This software enables users to visualize time-series and geospatial data with minimal effort or background knowledge on web development. Hydrovise is a tool for communicating hydrologic data in an interactive and transparent way. Users can easily visualize and publish hydrologic datasets in Open Data journals or alongside their publications as well.

Hydrovise is an open-source code published under MIT license terms. You can learn more about Hydrovise here.

Get to know Navid Jadidoleslam, a PhD student at the University of Iowa.

Jadidoleslam is originally from Tabriz, Iran where he earned his undergraduate degree in civil engineering in 2012. He then started his master’s degree at Istanbul Technical University, where his studies focused on hydraulic and water resources engineering. After obtaining his master’s, Jadidoleslam researched different PhD programs at universities in the U.S.  and chose the University of Iowa due to the Iowa Institute for Hydraulic Research’s (IIHR) esteemed reputation in water resources engineering.

Jadidoleslam works at the Iowa Flood Center, intending to continue his research in academia in the hydroscience field. He felt as though the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition would be a great opportunity for him to gain practice in grant proposal writing and to learn the procedure that goes along with the application process. This ultimately led him to apply for the IWC’s annual funding program.

One aspect of Jadidoleslam’s proposal topic that interests him the most is the visual representation of data in an interactive way that can provide more understanding of hydrologic data and the models that go along with the research.

Jadidoleslam also shared that his favorite part of the research process is the continuous learning that occurs. The hydrologic data and models are constantly evolving with the availability of new satellite-based remote sensing platforms. He explained that he tries to learn more by doing a variety of projects under the main research focus in his studies, and he enjoys sharing his work and results with his peers.

In Jadidoleslam’s down time, he has an interest in photography that stems from his childhood. He enjoys taking landscape photographs while he experiences different aspects of nature. Jadidoleslam also takes delight in cooking, baking bread, singing and playing guitar.

Book Club Discussion: Alex Braidwood

We interview Alex Braidwood, Iowa State University, regarding his work as a designer and sound artist. This was part of our Water Scholars Book Club June pick, Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols.