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News Releases from Region 05

EPA Recognizes League of Women Voters of Illinois for Water Quality Challenge Win

Contact Information: 
Allison Lippert (

CHICAGO (Aug. 21, 2019) - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and four federal partners announced the winners of its technology-accelerating water quality challenge. The League of Women Voters of Illinois in Jo Daviess County is one of three national teams selected for the Challenge’s prize of $50,000 each. The winning teams demonstrated how data from low-cost water quality monitoring sensors can be used to inform local decision-making on nutrient management.

“EPA is proud to support League of Women Voters of Illinois in their efforts to better manage our water resources and reduce nutrient runoff pollution,” said Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp. “Jo Daviess County and Northwest Illinois will benefit from the League’s work to help combat one of the nation’s most challenging water quality problems.”

The League of Women Voters of Illinois demonstrated how an edge-of-field sensor system could support farmers in reducing nitrogen loss from their fields. The installed sensors provide real-time data to inform farm-scale management decisions.

"The League's work on water resource management issues will benefit greatly from this award,” said League of Women Voters of Illinois Project Coordinator Beth Baranski. “Participation in the Challenge has already strengthened the connections between scientists, advocates and farmers and the prize will be used to continue to build a model of cooperative problem-solving and improve water quality in the Driftless Area of Northwest Illinois.”

The Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge is one of a series of challenges focused on nutrient management conducted as part of multi-year collaboration between the EPA, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS).

“To address the challenges of today and the future, we need innovative thinkers at the global- and local-level,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science and EPA Science Advisor Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta. “We commend the ‘challenge’ winners for identifying creative ways to use low-cost tools to understand our resources and better inform nutrient management decisions.”

For this challenge, six teams deployed and collected data from two or more nutrient sensors for at least three months and sought to demonstrate how local communities can use the collected data to inform nutrient management. In addition to the League of Women Voters of Illinois, South Platte Water Renewal Partner in Colorado and the University of New Hampshire were prize winners.

Through prize competitions and other innovative mechanisms, EPA, USGS, USDA, NIST, and NOAA’s IOOS collectively pursue opportunities to facilitate technological breakthroughs, engage stakeholders, and build a community working together to solve nutrient pollution. The Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge will be used as a springboard for further innovation to reduce excess nutrients in lakes, rivers, and coastal waters.

More information on EPA’s efforts to address excess nutrients:

More information on the Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge: