WRC awards research project grants

Two research projects were awarded funding by the WRC in the 2012 grant competition.

The projects tackle water challenges in Minnesota and the Gulf of Mexico. Pinpointing the sources of excessive nitrogen in the Gulf and creating a framework for sustainable water management in Minnesota will be explored by the projects’ Principle Investigators (PI’s).

Building sustainable governance frameworks to sustainably manage Minnesota Water Resources

PI Sherry Enzler (FR, UM) and co-PI Mae Davenport (FR, UM) propose that sustainable water management will require managing water from a hydrological system perspective at the water basin scale, which is a core recommendation of the Minnesota Sustainability Framework. The Framework, presented by WRC co-director Deb Swackhamer to the Minnesota Legislature in 2011, advises revision of water law and policy to create a “regional water basin based governance structure to sustainably manage the state's water resources." The effectiveness of any resulting proposals to implement the SustainabilityFramework governance recommendations, however, would be enhanced by a deeper understanding of the interactions of current governance constructs, our water resources and water resource users and or stakeholders,” according to the project abstract.

The Vermillion River Watershed will provide the model to help researchers understand the relationship between Minnesota’s regulatory systems that affect water management players and the state’s water resources in the Lower Mississippi River Basin. The outcome will be a system model that will direct governance decisions regarding hydrologic systems in the watershed, and water resources statewide.

Understanding Potential Landowner Perceptions and Adoption of Saturated Buffers

Nutrient-loaded water runoff draining into the Mississippi River from Minnesota farm fields contributes to the level of excessive reactive nitrogen in the Gulf of Mexico, potentially leading to contaminated drinking water, and ecological damage. Installation of drainage tile in rural Minnesota has increased farming productivity, and also allowed water runoff to bypass the natural subsurface buffers that would retain the water and allow the soil to process the nitrogen before it reaches the Mississippi. PI Dean Current (FR, UM) and co-PI Forestry Resources graduate student Charlene Brooks intend to survey farmers in the Elm Creek watershed about their attitudes regarding the environmental effectiveness and economic value of saturated riparian buffers and their willingness to install them. “It seemed logical to evaluate landowner perceptions of saturated buffers and identify potential constraints to adoption before campaigning to create additional buffers,” said Current. Overall, the goal of the study is to improve water quality through facilitating producer adoption of riparian buffers, and to make evaluations of technical and social factors contributing to or restraining adoption available to local governments and citizen groups interested in water