Introduction: Improving Ogallala Aquifer Research and Outreach
It is well known that North America’s largest freshwater aquifer, the Ogallala Aquifer, has been and continues to be in decline, in both water quantity and quality. This article will focus on an on-going response of the research community, principally in the region’s land-grant universities, to re-focus its research, collaboration, and outreach approaches to provide the region’s producers with information and tools to optimize and reduce water use, thereby extending the life of the aquifer, while maintains profitability.
Many involved in the use or management of the Ogallala aquifer will be familiar with OgallalaWater.org, the website of the Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP) as well as it the 8-state Ogallala Summit it helped organize (see below), but the CAP is much more.
In this issue of the KWRC News, we overview the CAP, its objectives, the resources it is working to provide producers and other audiences, and discuss the upcoming events and products planned to complete the project.
Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP)
The Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP) is a USDA funded research and outreach project focused on helping address issues related to groundwater declines (quantity & quality). The project was initiated in 2016 and will wrap up in the spring of 2021. It includes a team of approximately 70 university researchers, extension specialists, students and post-docs, based in 10 institutions, and 6 hub agricultural experiment stations in 6 Ogallala states.
According to their website, the project’s research and outreach activities aim to support farmer decision making and productivity in the Ogallala region, today and for future generations.
The heart of the project is research. CAP project leaders are working to make this research more accessible to producers via the website’s Project Activities/Our Research page, with links and summaries of select papers of interest to producers, regularly updated, divided into the following 4 areas:
- Irrigation production systems
- Dryland production systems
- Investigating “what if” scenarios
- How groundwater is valued and economical impacts of its use
A full list of publications produced as part of the project can be found at the following page: http://ogallalawater.org/resources/publications/. Again, the list of research papers to grow over the next year.
Outreach: “Topics”, Summits, and More:
It appears to me the most interesting and practical parts of the website are its “Topics.” Each topic includes introductions, resource guides, and links to free tools, video tutorials, and papers of interest. The site currently has the following 4 topics, with 6 more to be added in the coming months:
- Irrigation scheduling tools: this page includes links to 4 different tools currently available
- Soil Health: basic definitions and concepts, a resource guide, publications, tutorials and much more;
- Producer conservation attitudes
- Soil moisture monitoring
Another key outreach activity is its Ogallala Summits. The first was held in Garden City, Kansas on April 9-10, 2018 in Garden City, Kansas. The results of the Summit can be found at http://ogallalawater.org/2018-ogallala-aquifer-summit/. The page includes a link to the Summit’s report and links to videos from the key presentations. The project planned a second summit for March 31-April 1 of this year in Amarillo, Texas, but it had to be postponed due to the COVID19 pandemic. The next Summit is planned for the first quarter of 2021.
Amy Kremen, project manager, recently told me in an interview that they are planning to have an expanded selection of webinars in the near future as well.
More to Come / Keeping Up
Again, as the CAP works to wrap up, expect a flurry of additional research papers, expanded Topics, another Summit, webinars, producer stories, and more.
The project team is also involved in helping to support the development and launch of Master Irrigator programs, such as Colorado Master Irrigator, modeled after a successful program launched in 2016 in the Texas Panhandle by the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District.
To keep track of the work of the Ogallala CAP, sign up for their newsletter at the bottom of their home page.