The 12 [Business] Days of Christmas

We were absolutely “pumped” (get it? a water pun that never gets old) to release the agenda today for the 2016 Iowa Water Conference. But some of you are hungry this time of year – hungry for information (and cookies, maybe). So, to satiate your brains, we present the Iowa Water Conference 12 [Business] Days of Christmas. For the 12 business days leading up to Christmas, we’ll post descriptions of the 32 breakout sessions, 6 plenaries, optional workshop, and special conference extras. The schedule follows below:

Dec 9: Wednesday Plenaries
Dec 10: Green Infrastructure: Function
Dec 11: Strategies for Social Engagement
Dec 14: The Soil/Water Connection
Dec 15: Next Generation of Water  Professionals
Dec 16: Thursday Plenaries
Dec 17: Water Quantity
Dec 18: Current Technology
Dec 21: Green Infrastructure: Benefits and Maintenance
Dec 22: Nutrient Management
Dec 23: Optional workshop
Dec 24: Conference “extras”

Be sure to check in often to learn more about the super schedule we have for this year’s Iowa Water Conference!

Iowa Water Conference preview – Dec 3, 9-10:30

If you’re going to be in Ames the morning of Thursday, December 3, please stop by the 2nd floor of Agronomy Hall from 9-10:30 a.m. The Iowa Water Center will host a poster session featuring the Ames High School Bluestem Institute students and their Project Localize water quality posters (yes, the same ones that will be at our special event in March!).

Come for the coffee and donuts, stay for these incredible posters. Instructors Chad Zmolek, Mike Todd, and Joe Brekke are preparing their students for their presentation at the Iowa Water Conference in March, where the students will partake in a breakout session entitled “Water in Iowa: Voicing the Lexicon” followed by a break where they will exhibit their posters. (Not to mention the gallery session at CY Stephens the evening of March 23!)

If that’s not enough to entice you (as if coffee and donuts didn’t get you hooked in the first place), we will also hand out copies of the full 2016 Iowa Water Conference agendas. This is an exclusive sneak peek into the program for 2016 – the full agenda will be released on the Iowa Water Center website on Friday, December 4, and the Iowa Water Conference website will be updated soon thereafter.

This is an exciting time for water in Iowa – we hope you’ll join us!

Iowa Water Center seeks partners for community arts event

We’ve got something brewing over here at the Iowa Water Center, and we’re pretty excited about it.

This year is the tenth anniversary of the Iowa Water Conference (in its current form), so we thought we’d make it kind of special. The conference agenda (which will be released soon!) is particularly spectacular this year, but we can always do more.

The idea started off that we’d have Luther professors Jodi Enos-Berlage and Jane Hawley bring their Body of Water performance to Ames for conference goers to attend on the first night of the conference. This multimedia approach to water education seemed like a provocative addition to our two-day event, and we’ve had requests for several years to bring back an evening reception/activity for those attending from out of town. A lovely idea!

But then, we learned about a project that local Ames High School students are working on that also combines art and water education. The students within The Bluestem Institute at AHS are creating photo collages combined with text from interviews to define water quality terms from a technical, social and cultural perspective. They’ll be presenting during the Iowa Water Conference, but the work they’re doing is something to behold, so we didn’t want to limit it to conference attendees.

LIGHTBULB. Gallery session before the Body of Water performance. A community event, adjacent to the Iowa Water Conference, but not solely for paid attendees. Invite the community, far and wide.  These unique approaches to water outreach and education need to reach as many people as possible. Our state has some incredibly innovative environmental education efforts (Water Rocks!, anyone?), and it’s our job to display, disseminate, expose and otherwise facilitate learning. We at the Iowa Water Center are on a mission to better the state of water in the state of Iowa. Education and outreach are a big part of that.

But, we can’t do it alone. We want this evening event to be well-attended and free of charge to patrons. So we’re asking for partners – be it financial sponsors, connectors, marketers – whatever you can do to help make this happen, we want to talk to you. If you are interested in learning more or helping us brainstorm, contact us. We can’t wait to talk with you!

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: IWC’s 104(b) competition

At long last, the Iowa Water Center has released the request for proposals for the 2016 104(b) seed grant competition. Proposals are due November 16, 2015. This year, there are two programs for which to apply:

Seed Grant Water Research Competition

Funding of up to $30,000 for one year is available for researchers at one of Iowa’s accredited public or private universities or community colleges. Multiple year projects will be considered for the seed grant water research competition, but continued funding for subsequent years is subject to the availability of funds and progress made in the first year. The proposal must indicate what results/products can be achieved in each individual project year. Subsequent year funding is not guaranteed. Researchers seeking second-year funding must resubmit their proposal showing a new budget and progress made.

Priority will be given to projects that show potential for attracting additional grant money from state, federal, and other sources to support the research program. If funded, two short but required reports must be completed during the project year as a USGS requirement. The Iowa Water Center will also request a fact sheet from your work and a contribution to the Iowa Water Conference in the form of a poster or presentation.

In subsequent years, the Iowa Water Center will contact investigators to survey future impacts resulting from the seed grant funding, including “follow-on funding” and partnerships made as a result of grant activities.

The Iowa Water Center anticipates funding one seed grant in 2016.

Graduate Student Supplemental Research Competition

Funding of up to $5,000 for one year is available to graduate students nearing completion of their program of study. This program is designed to allow students to complete additional research objectives or products beyond the scope of their current water related funded project. The proposed budget must also include funds for publication costs; students will be encouraged to submit their research to peer-reviewed publications. Iowa Water Center staff will be available to help facilitate such submissions.

The Iowa Water Center anticipates funding two graduate student supplemental grants in 2016.

Priority Area for 2016: nutrients

This year’s focus will be on nutrients and their impact on Iowa’s waters and water management decisions. Excess nutrients in Iowa’s waters contribute to significant water quality issues, both locally and downstream. Public awareness of nutrient-related water quality issues is rising along with pressure on legislative bodies to address nutrient management issues through regulation.

Nutrients in water is a broad topic that may encompass any of the following areas related to excess nutrients in surface and ground water:

  • land use implications
  • tile drainage management
  • sedimentation and phosphorus loss
  • eutrophication
  • water quality monitoring

If you have any questions about this program, please contact Melissa Miller.

2015 Iowa Water Conference Water Resources Priorities White Paper

We’ve been putting on the Iowa Water Conference in its current form for nearly a decade (2016 will be the 10th annual!). For the most part, we’ve got the successful conference formula down, but the conference planning committee is always looking to add in new elements to the conference to keep it relevant and fresh. In 2015, we had this idea: since the Iowa Water Conference brings together upwards of 400 water professionals, teachers, students and community members in one place, shouldn’t we find out what’s on their minds? And thus, the idea for a water resources priorities white paper was born.

At the end of the conference (after Neil Hamilton’s talk on the DMWW lawsuit), we invited people to stay for one final general session: a guided discussion on water resources in the state that would then be summarized into a white paper for distribution. Iowa Water Center Director Rick Cruse and the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities Director of Stormwater Services Pat Sauer led the discussion and took notes. Afterward, Dr. Cruse compiled the notes into a one page document that was then reviewed and edited by the conference committee and IWC’s Advisory Board. We’ve just started distribution of the document this month – starting with handing out copies at the Conservation Districts of Iowa Conference and a presentation to the Water Resources Coordinating Council last week.

The white paper is available on the Iowa Water Center website, and we recommend you read the entire thing. But in case you want the cliff notes version, here are some of the key points:

  1. There was a lack of call for greater investments of public money in Iowa’s natural resources- instead, stability of existing funding was repeatedly identified as imperative to successful and effective programs.
  2. Soil quality and soil management were highlighted as important to both urban and agricultural watersheds.
  3. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was the most oft mentioned water quality topic, and attendees considered the establishment of goals and timelines, along with water monitoring, as vital to public acceptance of the strategy.
  4. Building partnerships and collaborating with one another was identified as critical to success. As an example, the most successful watershed projects have consistent coordinators that build partnerships among different stakeholders, broadening the circle of participants and resources with which to address problems.
  5. Education about soil and water related issues is a need in the state, both in the K-12 arena and for adults. It was suggested to have a statewide media campaign to raise watershed awareness.

The white paper gave us some insight to what’s important in the Iowa water landscape, but it also produces several questions. How can we address these priorities in an effective way? The document posted on the web provides five follow up questions. Continue the discussion. Use the questions as a discussion starter in your class, your family, with your legislator or watershed coordinator or neighbor. Then tell us what you come up with. We’re listening.

Iowa’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts – Good conference, good people

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we headed down to Prairie Meadows in Altoona for the 2015 Iowa Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners 69th Annual Conference. The Iowa Water Center has exhibited at the last three conferences, and we must say, it gets better every year. Clare Lindahl and her staff at Conservation Districts of Iowa work incredibly hard to put together a fun, informative conference with some big names in the business – the luncheon speaker on Tuesday was Kirk Hanlin, Assistant Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and on Wednesday, Iowa’s own Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

Our limited budget doesn’t allow us to exhibit at a lot of conferences each year, but we make sure to include this conference at the top of our list. We always see good friends, like Jamie Benning, who masterfully connects people and watersheds to Extension programming as the Water Quality Program Manager for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and Jackie Comito with Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! (who, by the way, was honored this past spring as a recipient of the National Wetlands Award).  We were happy to see we were positioned next to our perennial neighbor at this conference, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. It gives us a chance to catch up with our colleagues – these are busy times in the Iowa water landscape, so we don’t always have the time to keep up with each other like we’d like to!

Another reason we keep coming back is the quality conversations we have with attendees of the conference. Our booth is boring compared to some others – we don’t hand out pens, or candy, or keychains – in fact, this year, we just had our display, Iowa Water Conference Save-the-Date postcards, and copies of our white paper of Water Resources Priorities from the 2015 Iowa Water Conference session. But the district commissioners don’t care that they won’t pick up a water bottle or a stress ball from us. They want to know who we are, what we do, what we’re working on, and how they can use us as a resource. These are elected officials who will go back home after two days of soaking up information and will use it to better soil and water conservation management in their district. There are 500 soil and water conservation district commissioners, and they want to talk to you (yes, you!) about what can be done in YOUR district for soil and water. Find contact information for your commissioners and have a conversation about conservation.

Long time, no see: Updates from IWC

When we started this blog, we promised a post at least every other week – what do you mean, April 30th was more than two weeks ago?

The summer is flying by at the Iowa Water Center, but our blog silence doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy (just the opposite, as you might imagine). Here are some things we’ve been working on:

  1. Iowa Water Conference 2016.  The dates have been set – March 23 and 24. Why the switch? For several years, we’ve received many comments on the difficulties of a Monday/Tuesday schedule, and many years we’ve run into the lion-like weather issues of early March. With that in mind, we’re giving the later dates a chance. There are some challenges to these dates as well (cutting it pretty close to field work), but we’re hoping everyone can make the trip in later March.We’re also accepting applications to speak at the Iowa Water Conference – please read the call for proposals on the IWC website and follow the link to the web form within the call to submit your presentation proposal.
  2. New graduate student grant competition. In addition to the 104(b) research seed grant competition, IWC will seek proposals this fall from graduate students looking to delve deeper into their currently funded projects. Up to $5,000 is available for supplemental funding to achieve additional research goals. Funds can be used for analytical costs, materials and supplies, domestic travel, and publication fees. In fact, publication fees must be included in the budget; a major objective of this program is to encourage students to seek publication of their work. More on this new program in a later post. The RFA will be available by the end of August with a due date in mid-November.
  3. Future state-wide water event. Now, we can’t say much on this one, but one of Iowa’s fantastic water organizations has a vision for a state-wide water event to complement the Iowa Water Conference to occur late next summer. The plans are just now beginning, but we can assure you that you won’t want to miss this event in 2016.

There’s a lot more than that going on in the world of Iowa water – what is your organization working on? Tell us so we can share far and wide!

H2 in the KnOw: IWC joins the blogosphere

The Iowa Water Center has been around since 1964. Blogging has been around since 1994. Twenty years is a long time for the two to have never met.

The staff at the Iowa Water Center is incredibly passionate about getting the word out about Iowa’s water – from research to practice, from policy to watershed management, from education to water careers. We value a science based approach to addressing Iowa’s water topics, and we are always looking for new ways to tell Iowa’s water story. Thus, the IWC blog, “H2 in the KnOw,” is born.

The goal of this blog is to spread the message of what’s happening in Iowa’s water world (and sometimes beyond). We reach out in a number of different ways already – our website, bi-monthly newsletter News Flow, Twitter, Facebook – but let’s face it, there is a lot going on with water, and we want this blog to  spark conversations, challenge our knowledge and fuel the excitement for water in ways that go beyond what we’re already doing.

With that, we invite you to join us. We’ll be publishing semi-weekly (maybe more, but never less), featuring some original content, offering insights to what others are doing, and giving guest bloggers an opportunity to share their take on Iowa water.

Thanks for having us, blogosphere.