Advancing water resource management in agricultural, rural, and urbanizing watersheds: Why land-grant universities matter

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Federally funded university water programs have had limited success in halting the degradation of water resources in agricultural, rural, and urbanizing watersheds for the past five decades. USDA-funded university water programs have advanced our understanding of watershed processes and the development of best management practices (BMPs; e.g., conservation tillage, nutrient management, alternative and innovative septic systems, and riparian buffers) to mitigate environmental risks from anthropogenic activities, in particular from agriculture, to our water resources; yet water degradation persists and has worsened in many watersheds (Howarth et al. 2000; Mueller and Spahr 2006). The National Research Council (2012) stresses the need for sustainable agricultural practices to reduce changes in flow regimes and water quality.

In this research editorial, we make four points relative to solving water resource issues: (1) they are complex problems and difficult to solve; (2) some progress has been made on solving these issues; (3) external nonstationary drivers such as land use changes, climate change and variability, and shifts in markets, policies, and regulations warrant constant vigilance to assure that presumed improvements are being attained; and (4) we are poised to make substantial progress on these challenges over the next 10 to 20 years if critical steps are…

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Journal of Soil and Water Conservation