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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Soil and Water Management Research

2011 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
The Ogallala Aquifer in western Kansas and the Texas High Plains is declining at an unacceptable rate. Continued investments are needed in improved irrigation technologies, irrigation management, and agronomic research concerning water use efficiency, enhanced integrated cropping systems that reduce dependence on groundwater while sustaining profitability, and improved hydrological assessments of water availability to ensure the sustainability of rural communities in this region. Socioeconomic considerations, wise public policy regarding water rights, and public outreach are also needed to sustain these communities. Water availability and quality issues will affect the sustainability of agriculture, the socioeconomic structure of communities, and biodiversity and environmental quality of the landscape. The seven overall objectives of the program are to: 1. Improve water management, both irrigation and precipitation, within existing and emerging cropping systems, that can decrease dependence on groundwater resources at scales ranging from a farm to the entire region. 2. Improve the design, performance, and management of irrigation practices and systems. 3. Develop common methodologies for assessing current and future groundwater resource capabilities for the Ogallala Aquifer, and the interrelationships with future climate forecasts, cropping patterns, and water use policies and regulations. 4. Explore opportunities to reduce the dependence on groundwater resources by developing and evaluating integrated crop and livestock systems that are used in conjunction with improved irrigation practices. 5. Develop and evaluate water saving technologies, including wastewater reuse, for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and industries that process agricultural commodities. 6. Estimate the economic impacts of various water management activities and strategies at the farm, water district, and regional scales. 7. Develop a comprehensive data and information programs for policy makers, farmers, water professionals, and youth with respect to the Ogallala Aquifer and its importance and use.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
This water management research project is a cooperative effort between two ARS laboratories (Bushland and Lubbock, Texas) and four universities located in the southern Great Plains (Kansas State University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, and West Texas A&M University). A research team of approximately 85 engineers and scientists has been assembled to address the problems associated with the decline of the Ogallala Aquifer in western Kansas and the Texas High Plains. Rural communities depend on sustainable enterprises for their viability; therefore, it is important to provide a sound database for developing water conservation technologies and management practices, and equitable water policies. The project has seven (7) priority areas that contain subcomponents and additional research goals and tasks. The priority areas include: 1) improved management of irrigation and precipitation; 2) development of new irrigation technologies; 3) development of data bases and models to describe regional hydrology and climatology; 4) the integration of crop, forage, and livestock production systems; 5) development of new technologies to reduce water use in animal feeding operations; 6) economic assessments of water management strategies; and 7) development of training and educational materials to enhance the knowledge base of producers, water professionals, and policy makers. The developed research approach is a multi-tasked, multi-focused plan to address the complex issues related to insuring the sustainability of rural communities in western Kansas and Texas High Plains that utilize the water resources of the Ogallala Aquifer.

3. Progress Report
Texas Tech University scientists joined with ARS scientists from Bushland and Lubbock, TX, along with scientists from West Texas A&M University, Kansas State University, and Texas A&M University, to conduct these studies. This agreement was established in September 2009, to continue collaborative research funded under the project 6209-13000-013-09S, SUSTAINING RURAL ECONOMIES THROUGH NEW WATER MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES-TTU. Accomplishments listed in the annual report for the parent project include two that have TTU scientists as PrincipaI Investigators (PIs) and one accomplishment in which TTU scientists were co-Principal Investigators. Annual reports submitted by the PIs indicate that substantial progress was made in the past year for all projects supported with FY2009 funds. Projects supported with FY2010 funds and started in FY2011 with TTU scientists as PIs include: 1) Economic and water use policy assessments; 2) Effects of possible climate change on groundwater use in the Ogallala Aquifer region; 3) Evaluation of corn germplasm that has been selected for drought or heat tolerance; 4) Evaluation of peanuts selected for higher water use efficiency; and 5) Development of a High Plains water resource symposium. The ADODR and lead investigators are in regular contact via emails, teleconferences, face-to-face meetings, and at an annual progress workshop/conference. The ADODR and the other three members of the ARS leadership team have regular interactions with the leadership from the four cooperating universities, including TTU.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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