Twin Cities Seminar

Runoff Risk Decision Tool for Nutrient Applications


Dustin Goering
Hydrologist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

March 10, 2017


Nonpoint source nutrient runoff is a significant factor contributing to degraded water resources such as harmful algal blooms (HAB) in the Great Lakes and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Ensuring freshly applied nutrients, required for crop production, are not transported off fields and remain in the soil is an inherent farming challenge, especially as most applications occur during the fall through to the spring when runoff coincides with limited vegetative cover. Edge-of-field studies reveal that the majority of nutrient loads on agricultural fields are lost during this vulnerable period and can often be dominated by a few larger runoff events. In an attempt to reduce nutrient transport into waterways, producers have adopted a variety of conservation practices; however, most of these practices are focused on where and how to apply nutrients with minimal guidance on the short-term timing aspect of application. Recently the National Weather Service (NWS) North Central River Forecast Center has partnered with several state and federal agencies, universities, and the farming community to develop a runoff risk decision support tool. Utilizing the NWS’s unique capabilities of real-time atmospheric and hydrologic modeling on a national scale, these partnerships shape state specific tools providing web-based forecast guidance for the next 10 days. Wisconsin first implemented the tool in 2011, which sparked interest throughout the Great Lakes region, leading to a partnership between the NWS and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to implement an enhanced version in additional states. This enhanced version, which uses a grid-based hydrologic modeling approach, is expected to be implemented in Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in 2017. Incorporating this tool into nutrient management planning will increase awareness of the importance of application timing, hopefully encourage voluntary behavioral changes in producers, and ultimately lead to dual economic and environmental benefits by reducing nutrient losses from agricultural lands.


Dustin is a senior hydrologist at the National Weather Service North Central River Forecast Center located in Chanhassen, MN. There he maintains hydrologic models to produce river forecasts as well as developing decision support products such as the Runoff Risk tools being implemented across the Great Lakes. He received his BS in meteorology from Iowa State University and a MS in watershed management from the University of Arizona. He has served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air Force as well as a Hydrologic Technician for the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the Southwest Watershed Research Center in Tombstone, AZ, before accepting his present position at the RFC in 2008.