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