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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #366207

Research Project: MANAGING AGRICULTURAL WATER QUALITY IN FIELDS AND WATERSHEDS: NEW PRACTICES AND TECHNOLOGIES

Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Title: The Beargrass Story: Utilizing social science to evaluate and learn from the “watershed approach”

Author
item CHURCH, SARAH - Purdue University
item BABIN, NICHOLAS - Sierra Nevada College
item BENTLAGE, BELYNA - Creighton University
item DUNN, MICHAEL - Purdue University
item ULRICH-SCHAD, JESSICA - South Dakota State University
item RANJAN, PRANAY - Purdue University
item MAGNER, JOSEPH - University Of Minnesota
item MCLELLAN, EILEEN - Environmental Defense
item STEPHAN, SUSAN - Us Forest Service (FS)
item Tomer, Mark
item PROKOPY, LINDA - Purdue University

Submitted to: Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/14/2019
Publication Date: 8/5/2019
Citation: Church, S.P., Babin, N., Bentlage, B.M., Dunn, M.L., Ulrich-Schad, J.D., Ranjan, P., Magner, J.A., Mclellan, E.L., Stephan, S.J., Tomer, M.D., Prokopy, L.S. 2019. The Beargrass Story: Utilizing social science to evaluate and learn from the “watershed approach”. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education. (167):78-96.

Interpretive Summary: Planning and implementing conservation practices to achieve water quality improvement goals in agricultural watersheds requires coordinated efforts involving watershed monitoring and assessment, and engaging farm producers to participate as partners committed to conservation success. This reality places agricultural watershed improvement at an intersection of environmental, agricultural, and social sciences. This study evaluated a three-year effort to engage farm producers in a watershed approach to water quality improvement in Beargrass Creek, Indiana. The project included watershed monitoring, involvement of local conservation district staff and an agricultural engineering consultant, and a watershed analysis conducted using the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework. Farm producers in the watershed were surveyed before, during and after the project. Producers valued the project's local, small watershed focus, involvement of local conservation district staff who had positive relationships with local producers, and the availability of long-term monitoring data that can verify water quality issues and eventual watershed improvement. Producers agreed that water quality goals should be achievable, and that scientific input was accurate and helpful. However, short-term watershed projects belie the long-term commitment needed to be successful watershed-wide. Also, success should be gaged by not only the water quality record, but by how scientific, educational and engagement efforts can change producer attitudes towards expanding conservation on their farms and recognizing their key role in improving water quality. These results are of interest to watershed planners, agricultural conservationists and social scientists, and conservation policy makers.

Technical Abstract: Planning and implementing conservation practices to achieve water quality improvement goals in agricultural watersheds requires coordinated efforts involving watershed monitoring and assessment, and engaging farm producers to participate as partners committed to conservation success. This reality places agricultural watershed improvement at a trans-disciplinary intersection of environmental, agricultural, and social sciences. This chapter reports on lessons learned during a three-year effort to engage farm producers in a watershed approach to water quality improvement in Beargrass Creek, Indiana. The project was supported through watershed monitoring conducted by nearby Manchester University, involvement of local conservation district staff, and scientific input provided by an agricultural engineer/consultant and through a watershed analysis conducted using the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework. Farm producers in the watershed were surveyed before, during and after the project. Results highlighted that producers valued the project’s local, small watershed focus, involvement of local conservation district staff who had positive relationships with local producers, and the availability of long-term monitoring data that can verify water quality issues and eventual watershed improvement. Producers agreed that water quality goals should be achievable and that scientific input was accurate and helpful. However, short-term watershed projects belie the long-term commitment needed to be successful watershed-wide. Also, success should be gaged by not only the water quality record, but by how scientific, educational and engagement efforts can change producer attitudes towards expanding conservation on their farms and recognizing their key role in improving water quality.