Advancing Watershed Health Through Watershed Champions

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $74,993.00
Projected End Date: 04/03/2021
Grant Recipient: National Wildlife Federation
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Adam Reimer
National Wildlife Federation

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: Local water utility to farmer/stakeholder

    Proposal abstract:

    Modeled on the National Wildlife Federation’s successful Cover Crops Champion program, our new Watershed Champions initiative seeks to improve source water quality for rural Iowa water utilities by 1.) engaging local producers and 2.) increasing conservation practice adoption in the watershed.
    Water contamination from nitrates is often linked to the over application of fertilizers and animal manures on private lands, and mitigation can be prohibitively expensive for water utilities (our target audience). Source Water Protection (SWP) plans are an affordable alternative, but utilities often lack the knowledge, capacity, and partnerships to be successful. To address this challenge, National Wildlife Federation (NWF), in partnership with the Conservation Districts of Iowa (CDI) and Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), will convene water utilities and Source Water Protection teams in northwestern Iowa to implement Source Water Protection plans.
    Through the proposed professional development opportunity, water utility operators will receive in- depth training on coordinating SWP outreach and educating stakeholders, as well as ongoing support from project partners in watershed planning, community engagement, and farmer communication. They will become “Watershed Champions.” Additional tools, such as a communications manual, infographics, and a final report will help ensure Champion success and facilitate transferability to other communities. Following the training, each Champion will launch a two-year pilot project under the guidance of NWF and CDI staff.
    With the ultimate goal of improved watershed health, this professional development intervention will give Champions new communication and collaboration development skills, which they will apply in SWP implementation and new farmer partnerships.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    The purpose of this project is to improve source water quality for rural water utilities in Iowa by engaging local producers and increasing conservation practice adoption in the watershed. Outcomes include:

    Short-term Outcome:

    Champions demonstrate new communication knowledge and improved partnership development skills as evidenced by participant survey. Key success indicators include: number of individuals who received training; number of participants who gain or increase knowledge, awareness, and skills about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches; number of participants who intend to use knowledge in existing or new programming.

    Intermediate Outcome:

    Champions apply new knowledge through SWP implementation and develop new partnerships with farmers as evidenced by participant survey. Key success indicators include: percentage increase in the number of partnerships pre- and post-training; number of participants who incorporate information from project into new education programs; number of farmers reached through project programs.

    Long-term outcome:

    Watershed conditions are improved as evidenced by farmer implementation of conservation practices listed in the SWP plans. Key success indicator includes: number of producers who adopt sustainable systems, approaches, and practices; number of acres, animals, or other production units affected by adoption.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.