The pieces of our DRFEWS project are coming together! Economic, land use, and environmental systems models, scenarios, sustainability outcome measurements—all working to project future possibilities for our region. We anticipate running the DRFEWS model this fall yet, first for the Maumee watershed and the baseline scenario only; but our team will gradually add in all five scenarios and the entire study region. We look forward to sharing our progress this winter.
In this update we highlight a few key topics.
- Measuring sustainability outcomes: We have made a YouTube video that describes our current thinking and approach. Check it out!
- Farmer Survey Reprise: We're revisiting our 2019 Farmer Survey data and are interested in your analsyis ideas.
- Summary of May RAC/PMAT meeting: We appreciate the input and suggestions from those who were able to join us in May. See a summary of key topics and how we are responding to your suggestions below.
New Video and Other Resources
A new 8-minute video explains our approach to sustainability assessment. Watch it here: https://youtu.be/oSrY1tl0ijQ. We’re hoping to create videos for a more general audience, so please share your thoughts. Is it understandable? Engaging? Confusing? Helpful? Send your feedback to Cassy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other New Resources Online
Look under the resources tab for these.
Farmer Survey Data
Early in the DRFEWS project, our team surveyed farmers and landowners to examine the role prices played in their land use decisions (cash crops vs. conservation set aside programs vs. wind turbine leases). The results informed our land use model, but there’s more to learn from the data. As we build a descriptive report of the findings from our farmer survey, we would welcome any suggestions for analyses. Specifically, are there questions from the survey you would like to see cross-tabbed or correlated? (For example, how does farm size relate to openness to conservation programs.) Here’s a similar report to give you more ideas. Please share your thoughts with Carrie at email@example.com.
RAC Meeting Notes
Thank you to all who spent time with our DRFEWS team in May. Below are a few examples of meeting discussion that our team was able to put into immediate action.
BMP Adoption Adaptation
Our model will focus on several agricultural Best Management Practices, starting with subsurface fertilizer placement and filter/buffer strips. In scenarios with high sustainability, we would expect the expanded use of these practices to increase and impact water quality.
We shared our projected future BMP adoption rates for each of our 5 scenarios with the RAC/PMAT group. Most of you agreed these are relevant practices to focus on, but questioned if adoption will ever really reach 100%. This feedback led us to revise our future adoption rate predictions to a more realistic S-shaped trend that levels off before reaching 100% adoption.
Rural vs. Urban Water Quality Concerns
SWAT models are really designed for farmland and rural areas. We asked how important it is to capture urban influences on water use and pollution? Very important, according to your feedback, both for accuracy and to maintain credibility with stakeholders. The group noted it will be important to communicate that we looked at urban water issues as well as rural ones. Farmers may already feel they receive an unfair portion of the blame for water quality problems.
Since at least one watershed with a major urban land area was used to develop our regional SWAT model, we think we can capture the impacts of urban landscapes in our outcome assessments. We are also exploring the use of additional SWAT models from other states in our study region to improve our work.
As we prepare to share project results with a larger audience, we recognize that this will present many challenges. Input from the RAC/PMAT group provided excellent feedback on which data presentation methods work well and which fall flat. In response, we are thinking about how to:
- Be transparent about what these models can and can’t do. We’re not predicting the future; instead we are projecting plausible futures.
- Explain how things fit together and work, but don’t lose focus on practical value of the model: exploring decisions that are robust to the uncertainties of the future; modeling the (directional) impact of specific policies; providing a setting for conversations about the future.
- Communicate stories told by the end data in an accessible way? Use case studies or real examples. Start simple and get more complex.
- Avoid getting too complex! Present information on a 5th grade level if possible.
- Make use of icons and key phrases that convey info quickly and avoid acronyms and unfamiliar terms.
- Show how the model works on historic data and stress the participatory involvement to add confidence to results.