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Advancing the One Water concept

Article cover photo
Rebecca Power (left) and Roger Wolf address attendees at the North Central Region One Water Action Forum in Indianapolis, Dec. 11-13. The forum brought together personnel who can deploy action for water improvement across the Midwest. (Photo: Carol Brown/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Carol Brown, ISA environmental communications specialist

The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) is playing a principal role in the One Water concept.

“The idea of One Water involves everyone, no matter where you live,” said Roger Wolf, ISA Environmental Programs and Services (EPS) director. “Everyone needs water, so we must work together to protect and improve our water and delivery systems.”

The national One Water Summit, held earlier this year in Minneapolis, was the springboard for a regional Action Forum in Indianapolis, Dec. 11-13. The 170 attendees at the forum included municipal water utility managers, watershed managers, university researchers and extension personnel, farmers, landowners, and representatives from government and private organizations. Participants came from 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“This forum will engage all of us in translating the One Water idea into informed action,” said Rebecca Power, North Central Region Water Network director. “We want to prepare the next generation of water stewards.”

The U.S. Water Alliance sponsored both the regional Action Forum and the national One Water Summit.  Wolf serves on their board of directors and was part of the planning for both meetings. He and several other national Summit attendees from the Midwest agreed regionalizing the conversation will help get the ball rolling.

“The forum will help the process of furthering this movement quicker,” said Wolf. “The One Water snowball is rolling and picking up speed.”

The goal of the two events was for participants to deploy ideas locally to improve water quality for rural and urban communities before burdensome regulations are enacted or water issues become too difficult to fix.

Iowa and ISA are leaders in nutrient reduction

Iowa has been a national leader with the EPA’s Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force since 2008, when the task force unveiled their action plan. Iowa was the first state of 12 to have an official strategy in place to reduce nonpoint and point-source pollution in water entering the Mississippi River. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) offers ways to achieve the goal of 45 percent nutrient reduction in Iowa’s surface waters.

Researchers at ISA are taking the Iowa NRS a step further. The EPS team works directly with farmers and landowners to engage with the strategy, providing them assistance and information to achieve the goals.

Attendees at the forum expressed their appreciation for ISA and its leadership on natural resources and environmental issues and how the organization is setting an example for others. Because of ISA’s work in this area, EPS team members Chris Hay, Adam Kiel and Wolf were called upon to serve as panelists and facilitators at the meeting.

Hay, ISA senior environmental scientist, and Jane Frankenberger, professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering at Purdue University, led players through the Nutrient Reduction Game, a simulation of applying practices in a watershed setting. They are the developers behind the game, which debuted at last winter’s ISA Farmer Research Conference.

To play, participants practiced role-playing as farmers, watershed coordinators and utilities directors. The farmers chose where to add cover crops, bioreactors, wetlands and other conservation practices on their farms. The watershed coordinators and utilities managers supported their efforts with private and public resources. The participants learned how important it is to know the landscape to use practices efficiently. They also learned the watershed coordinator is key to successful conservation implementation.   

“I hope everyone has great ideas to take back to their organizations to deploy in their area,” said Wolf, at the final plenary session. “The planning committee called this an Action Forum for a reason. There needs to be more than a conversation. People attending this event want to make water improvement happen and are continually looking for ways to do so.”

ISA was a host and platinum sponsor of the North Central Region Action Forum, along with the North Central Region Water Network, the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) and the U.S. Water Alliance.


Contact Carol Brown at

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