Iowa Water Center request for stories

The Iowa Water Center is an unbiased, federally-funded Water Resources Research Institute that explores a diverse range of topics in water. We establish a public trust in scientific water information. We believe that consuming science-based information can empower individuals to be knowledgeable about their surroundings and to act in building better ecological and social communities. The Iowa Water Center uses the power of a story to address challenges in science communication.

We are open to receive submissions of written works and graphic materials that outline current research, projects, and primary source-based narratives about water resources in Iowa.


Our Audience: Water professionals, faculty and graduate students, engaged citizens, and citizen leaders

The blog, H2 in the Kn0w, is our venue in which we conduct outreach to engaged citizens, citizen leaders, and water professionals with scientific information and empirically informed editorials from researchers. Content for the blog is comprehensive, credible, and presented in a way that represents the most up-to-date status of water resources research.

Thematic areas:

  • Student-based work in water research and projects in communities
  • Editorial feature of perspectives in water science
  • Reviewing books, exhibits, art related to water
  • Summarizing innovative, recent water research
  • Previews and promotion of upcoming water research projects and presentations
  • First hand experiences and stories related to water

Posts may include: photos, video, figures, and other graphics

Requirements for writing:

  • Approximately 450 words in length
  • Photos, figures, graphics are highly encouraged
  • Videos are also accepted
  • A byline is required at the beginning of the text
  • A 1-2 sentence biographical summary of the author, including a photo, is required at the bottom of the text
  • References can be cited at the bottom of the post – no particular citation style is required

Posts should be submitted as a Word Document to Hanna Bates, Program Coordinator at the Iowa Water Center at

In a word: overwhelming.

Post written by Melissa Miller, Associate Director for the Iowa Water Center

As I reflect on the 2019 Iowa Water Conference, the first word that comes to mind is overwhelming.

Overwhelming numbers – of people attending, sponsors and exhibitors, and speakers.

Overwhelming breadth of topics and information presented.

Overwhelming energy, optimism, new ideas.

Overwhelming support from you, the Iowa water community.

This is the seventh Iowa Water Conference I’ve coordinated, and I have to say that this one took me by surprise. I felt differently going into it, knowing how much effort the conference planning committee put into developing a well-rounded program and knowing beforehand that we were expecting the biggest conference crowd in the 13 years of the Iowa Water Conference. What was surprising – overwhelming – was the feeling that our water community is more vibrant, more invigorated, more ready to act than ever.

What we’ve always known to be true – that all water has value and a systems approach to watershed management is the only way we will build a sustainable water future – has been neatly articulated by the US Water Alliance as the One Water Approach, presented by Radhika Fox. It’s messaging we can all use in our work to bring new partners on board and develop relationships that didn’t previously exist.

What we’ve faced repeatedly in our work – that we must engage the citizens in our watersheds, but that’s easier said than done – is receiving new life in the form of interactive exhibits and personal storytelling like We Are Water Minnesota; in the crazy, exciting, and realistic flood resiliency tournament used in the East and West Nishnabotna watersheds; in the message that the ideals of citizenship are perhaps even more important in our watershed communities. It’s a reminder that all communication starts with meeting someone where they are and valuing their personal, lived experience before trying to share your message.

What remains to be learned – there is new research, new methods, new discoveries happening constantly with water – is best discovered in a shared learning environment, making the conference more than just a place for information overload. It’s a place where we make and renew friendships and partnerships with those who are working toward the same goals as we are and processing that information together.

I really shouldn’t be surprised that bringing together 550 passionate, intelligent, diverse, and hardworking individuals would be overwhelming (even for me, the most extroverted of all extroverts). It’s just that there are so many highlights from this year’s conference – those mentioned above, and at least 100 others I could mention – that I don’t know yet how to top it next year.

I’ll leave you with an invitation – please share with us what would make this conference overwhelming (in a positive way) – every year. On April 17, we will gather in Ankeny to brainstorm and plan for 2020, and everything is on the table (venue, dates, branding, themes, speakers, logistics, etc.). If you want to be a part of that meeting, contact us. If you have suggestions for the conference, contact us. If you want to keep this energy going throughout the year and need some resources, contact us. Stay in touch – and we’ll see you in 2020.

Melissa headshot_0


Melissa Miller is the associate director of the Iowa Water Center. She holds a BS in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Community and Public Health and MS degree in Community Development with an emphasis in Natural Resource Management, both from Iowa State University.


Bates awarded CYtation Award

Hanna Bates, Program Assistant, Iowa Water Center and Jonathan Wickert Senior Vice President and Provost, Iowa State University

On March 22, 2018, Program Assistant Hanna Bates was awarded a CYtation Award from the Iowa State University Professional & Scientific Council at Iowa State University for performing above the call of duty at the Iowa Water Center. She is one of approximately 12 others to receive this award this year.

IWC Debuts New Logo

The Iowa Water Center is pleased to unveil our new logo!

It’s been five years since the Iowa Water Center last redesigned the logo, and it’s amazing how things have changed in that time. New staff, new projects, and a reinvigorated commitment to enhanced water management across the state have better defined our focus as originally laid out in the federal Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) of 1964.

Through this legislation, we are tasked with conducting a statewide research program that supports four critical needs on a local level:

  1. improvements in water supply reliability;
  2. the exploration of new ideas that address water problems or expand understanding of water and water-related phenomena;
  3. the entry of new research scientists, engineers, and technicians into water resources fields; and
  4. the dissemination of research results to water managers and the public.

We are also called to “cooperate closely with other colleges and universities in the State that have demonstrated capabilities for research, information dissemination, and graduate training in order to develop a statewide program designed to resolve State and regional water and related land problems.”

We don’t take these directives lightly. Through our conducted research, robust online presence, and role as a connector for collegiate and credible water-related agency and organization work, we strive to foster efficient, effective advances in water management for the state of Iowa. Every project we take on has to pass this test, so it is only fitting that our new logo symbolizes what we so highly value.

The water droplet, of course, is a familiar emblem for our industry. However, our water droplet takes subtle cues from an ear of corn to tie into Iowa’s agricultural roots. The four colors of the droplet represent those four critical needs defined in the WRRA. Additionally, these sections cross over and into each other, symbolizing the connective nature of our work. The font is a nod to our administrative home at Iowa State University.


We look forward to our stakeholders becoming familiar with the new look as we also look to improve our website so that it better reflects our Center. We’d also like to give a special thank you to Zao525 for their expertise, attention to detail, and guidance in this process.

When it comes to water…

From Melissa Miller, Iowa Water Center Associate Director

What a difference a week makes. Last Friday, my family and I made a lunch and relaxation stop in Elkader on our way to Wisconsin for a weekend getaway. My girls love water, so we walked over the Keystone Bridge for a good look.

may and hana on turkey

Hana, 3, and May, 5 pose near the Turkey River in Elkader on 8/19/16.

Just a week later, Elkader and other Northeast Iowa residents are dealing with severe flooding from torrential downpours earlier in the week that dumped as much as 8″ of rain in some areas, causing damage to homes, businesses, and even killing one person swept away in the flash floods. Some residents had to evacuate their homes and take shelter elsewhere (including fish!). The water that makes these communities peaceful, beautiful places to live and visit can also pose severe challenges.

turkey river flooding

Flooding of the Turkey River in downtown Elkader as taken by NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center’s Airborne Snow Survey airplanes.

This storm is a solemn reminder of the power of water and the importance of studying it. Our seed grant RFP will be released soon, and this year we are partnering with other Water Resources Research Institutes in the Mississippi and Ohio River Basins to share knowledge so that we’re advancing our understanding together. In addition, the Iowa Watershed Approach has already begun work in communities to help address flood and water quality risks and increase community resiliency to events like the ones this week. Related to flooding, up-to-date flood information is available through the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS).

IWC’s overarching goal is to improve management of water resources. “Management” might not be the best term, because in many cases, water (and nature) does what it will. There’s a parallel between “managing” water and “managing” children – no matter what you want out of it, the true nature of the water (and the child) will always rise up.

family on turkey

One of many attempts at a “nice” family picture at the Keystone Bridge. Getting kids to look at the camera with serene smiles can be as difficult as telling a river or a rain cloud exactly where to run or when to empty.


From the IWC Director: Water Quality – Why Such a Challenge?

On July 26, IWC Director Rick Cruse presented to about 150 attendees at the Arkansas Water Resources Center’s Annual Conference. The theme of the conference was “Nutrients, Water Quality and Harmful Algal Blooms.” Dr. Cruse spoke during the opening general session in a presentation entitled “Water Quality – Why Such a Challenge?” The following is a summary of what he told our downstream friends in Arkansas.

Why is water quality such a challenge?  A few simple concepts help recognize why this challenge exists.

We know that water added to a pail filled water will be lost.

We know that complex systems are more difficult to understand and manage than simple ones.

We also know that activities favoring economics of an individual may not favor natural resources or the general population.

And finally, to be a champion one must be willing to identify a goal and be committed to meet that goal.

Transposing these concepts to agriculture is quite simple.  Adding nutrients to a landscape that has had repeated nutrient additions and does not have the capacity to hold additional nutrients will likely lose those nutrients as a full pail loses water added to it.  Managing nutrients in agricultural systems is incredibly complex; elements of this complex system range from policy influencing human management choices to highly variable weather systems.

Understanding these elements independently is difficult, understanding how they interact is incredibly challenging.  Management practices that favor maximum short term economic returns require short term management choices; managing natural resources such as water requires a long term vision.  Short term profit motives seldom support long term water quality goals.

Finally, if we want improved water quality, we must make water quality a committed goal and not just an add-on to a system that we know to be very leaky.

We’ve got news…

It’s been a little quiet around this old blog-that tends to happen in the aftermath of the Iowa Water Conference. A challenge we’ve always faced is limited staff – you’ll notice there are only two faces on our About Us page.

That’s about to change. Today, our posting for a program assistant went live on As public interest in Iowa’s water management has heated up, so has the role we’re able to play in shaping Iowa’s water future. The Iowa Watershed Approach grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and increasing expansion of the Daily Erosion Project have put us in a place where we not only need more staff, we have the support to do so.

So what will the program assistant do? Lots of important stuff. Does that sum it up? Okay, to be more specific, this person will:

  • administer our competitive grants program
  • help with planning education and outreach events (including the Iowa Water Conference)
  • keep track of the approximately 10 million details involved in managing IWC sponsored projects
  • spread the word about all the fantastic water research and activities going on

We’re looking for a know-it-all. A details person. A deadline embracer. A communicator.

The posting is currently open through June 5. If you or someone you know are interested in this position, please review the job posting and submit through the Iowa State system. Want to talk it through? Call or email. We’re ready.

Waxing poetic about working together (and NIWR)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Registration open for 2016 Iowa Water Conference

It’s here! It’s perhaps one of the best days of the year over here at the Iowa Water Center! Registration has opened for the 2016 Iowa Water Conference. There is an overwhelming amount of information on the conference website, so scurry over there and take your time checking everything out. Some of the highlights:

  • $150 regular/$75 student registration – ends March 11. Add $25 for late registration.
  • $50 optional workshop – “The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior: A skill building workshop to support voluntary behavior change”
  • $500 commercial exhibits/$50 nonprofit exhibits – commercial exhibits include one registration
  • Poster registration is online again this year (there’s a big red button on the bottom to start registration)

Have any questions about this year’s conference? Call Melissa Miller at 515-294-7467 or send an email to Can’t wait to see you in March!

P.S. If you see anyone from any of the following organizations, give them a pat on the back for their hard work in helping plan this year’s conference: Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Flood Center, Iowa Floodplain and Stormwater Management Association, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Storm Water Education Program, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Luther College, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Trees Forever and the U.S. Geological Survey — Iowa Water Science Center.