New Watershed Outreach Associate aims for clear waters through community engagement

URBANA, Ill. – Whether you’re managing a large farm or running a lawn care company, how to manage nutrient and water resources effectively and sustainably isn’t always clear. The University of Illinois Extension team of water specialist experts connects communities around the state with research-based resources and best practices because small changes at the local level can have a big impact down river.

In July, Illinois Extension welcomed Nicole Haverback to serve as a Watershed Outreach Associate in Clay, Effingham, Fayette and Jasper Counties. Haverback is responsible for the development, delivery, and evaluation of educational programs related to water quality and watershed management, says Dennis Bowman, Extension Digital Agriculture Specialist.

“We are excited to have Nicole in this position helping improve water quality for the region,” Bowman says. “Farmers and other community members alike will benefit from her expertise and her enthusiasm in protecting our natural resources.”

As part of the watershed for the Mississippi River, Illinois is part of a multi-state effort to improve water quality by reducing nitrogen and phosphorus levels in lakes, streams, and rivers. When high levels of these nutrients reach the Mississippi River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico, they cause algal blooms that lower oxygen levels in the ocean and harm marine life.

The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is a guide to helping agencies including Illinois Extension as they work with communities, stakeholders, and partners to reduce runoff from urban and rural areas. Haverback will create and lead public education programs that raise awareness and provide best management practices that will improve the water quality of the Little Wabash River Watershed and Embarras River Watershed.

“During my time in this position, I hope to not only give back and preserve the industry that raised me, but also help educate and provide farmers and landowners in my area with the benefits of conservation,” Haverback says.

Haverback grew up on a livestock and row-crop farm in Atkinson and graduated from Iowa State University in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Rural Policy Studies. She has worked with Water Rocks! And Iowa Learning Farms to educate stakeholders on Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

“Working on Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy previously opened my eyes to how critical implementing conservation practices are and the benefits they can provide the land and the producer,” Haverback says.

Haverback is based in the Illinois Extension Effingham County office located in Effingham. She can be reached at nlh@illinois.edu or (309) 945-3066.

University of Illinois Extension educators and specialists connect every county in Illinois with university research through in-person and distance-learning programming and other educational outreach. They work to provide businesses, families, and agricultural producers with the practical tools and resources needed to solve problems.

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions.