Plan: Successful Water Programs

mountainpeak_image002_010_plan_successful-programThe National Water Program, a partnership of USDA/CSREES and the Land Grant Universities and Colleges, has fostered many excellent water quality programs over the past six years. Some of those program are exceptional. They may have integrated research, teaching, and Extension in an innovative way; successfully combined resources with an important agency partner; or maybe they’ve been able to sustain and grow their program over a long period of time and access multiple funding sources to meet a water quality need.

At the 2007 CSREES National Water Program Conference workshop, Creating and Sustaining Successful Water Quality Programs: Lessons Learned from Across the Nation and Support for Success at Home, participants explored the underpinnings of successful water programs. The workshop, organized by the Regional Water Liaisons, in coordination with the USDA/CSREES National Facilitation Projects, highlighted three case studies that exemplify elements of a successful water programs based on the National Water Program mission, purpose, and priorities.

The following characteristics of a successful program were outlined by workshop planners. “Planning” steps guide program development to include these components. A full report of session findings is available here, Defining Successful Water Programs (PDF).

Relevant – contributes to the missions, goals, and objectives of partner organizations.

Focused – goals are measurable, achievable, and targeted toward improving social, economic, environmental, or civic conditions.

Scale-appropriate – designs approaches at local, state, multi-state, or national scales, effectively addressing the program focus

Innovative – integrates research findings and collegial knowledge and experience

Collaborative – cultivates and nurtures authentic and appropriately diverse partnerships.

Integrated or incorporating research-based knowledge and methods – brings together the three components of the agricultural knowledge system (research, education, and extension) around a problem or issue (definition from CSREES Competitive Programs), and involves research and Extension colleagues in both program design and implementation.

Adaptive – develops and implements continuous feedback and improvement strategies that include strong program planning and evaluation components, and exchanges information about processes, outputs, and outcomes with colleagues at local, state, multi-state, and national levels.

Visible – interprets processes, outputs, and outcomes in a format that is understandable and accessible to partners and decision-makers.

Effective – achieves outcomes that meet intended and unanticipated program objectives.

Sustainable – develops and implements mechanisms to sustain the production of impacts over time, as appropriate to the duration and priority of a public need

Knowledge foundations for determining program characteristics

Adult education and learning theory

Civic empowerment and citizen participation


Community development



Organizational development and management

Program planning

Knowledge foundations for determining characteristics for successful water programs were compiled by Elaine Andrews, Unversity of Wisconsin, Environmental Resources Center, January 2007.