Summer 2019 Director's Corner

The last few months have provided us with a fitting example of the water challenges that we have across the state. In May, most of southern Minnesota had above normal rainfall, with some areas exceeding long-term averages by up to five inches. In June, much of the state swung the other direction, although the southeast continued to be an outlier with more than six inches of rain above normal. These variations led to significant impacts for our agricultural producers: this year, the state’s corn planting finished mid-June, almost a full two weeks later than normal. Currently, less than 60 percent of the corn crop is rated good or excellent, compared to an average of more than 80 percent for this time of year. Rainfall taxed our towns and cities, as well. On July 8-9, a storm in northwestern Minnesota resulted in record or near record rainfall for many communities, including Georgetown (4.47 inches), Hallock (3.58 inches), and Thief River Falls (2.31 inches).

Work at the Water Resources Center and with our partners are finding a range of options for dealing with this new normal. In this Minnegram issue, Jeff Strock reports on how combining bioreactors and using novel “ingredients” can reduce nutrients from agricultural drainage water. Brad Carlson describes how he and Jodi DeJong-Hughes, two recent additions to the WRC team, were featured in recent episodes of Fieldwork, a new podcast focused on agriculture, environmental stewardship, and sustainability. The Minnesota Office of Soil Health has been busy, and Anna Cates highlights farm demonstrations teaching the principles of soil health to employees from local soil and water conservation districts.

In addition to research, outreach, and engagement, the WRC helps Minnesotans address new water challenges through partnership and collaboration. As I write this, we have just finished hosting our colleagues from the Iowa Water Center, and we are discussing how to leverage our comparative advantage to better meet the needs of our stakeholders across the state and region. Another important collaboration is the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program’s work with MNDot to analyze rest stop septic wastewater to determine the presence and effects of chemicals of emerging concern. Karen Terry describes how the WRC’s Watershed Specialist Training helps early-career watershed managers build both technical expertise and develop relationships among their peers to support their work into the future. Finally, we are preparing for the 2019 Minnesota Water Resources Conference, a two-day event October 15-16  both presenting the results of previous collaborations and serving as a gathering to spark new ones.

We hope to see you there!

joel

joel larson