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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #429690

Research Project: Water Management to Sustain the Economic Activity from the Ogallala Aquifer on the Southern High Plains-KSU

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Project Number: 3090-13000-015-09-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2015
End Date: Aug 31, 2020

Objective:
This agreement supports the Ogallala Aquifer Program, an ARS led research-education consortium addressing problems arising from declining water availability from the Ogallala Aquifer on the Southern High Plains. The current objectives of the Ogallala Aquifer Program and this agreement are: 1) Develop and evaluate water management strategies and technologies that could reduce water withdrawals for irrigation by 20% by 2020 compared to 2012, while maintaining or enhancing the economic viability of agricultural industries of the region; 2) Develop and evaluate management strategy and technologies that increase the productivity and profitability of dry land cropping systems; 3) Improve the understanding of the hydrological and climatic factors that affect water use and economic profitability, and provide estimates of the climatic, hydrologic, cropping and profitability conditions that are likely to occur on the Southern High Plains between 2015 and 2060; 4) Determine the impacts of alternative water withdrawals/use policies on the economic viability of the agricultural industries and the vitality of the region. These objectives and resulting research results address objectives and outcomes in the parent’s project research plan and the action plan of ARS’ NP211, Water Availability and Water Management.

Approach:
This cooperative project, Ogallala Aquifer Program, between ARS (Bushland and Lubbock, Texas), Kansas State University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Service University, Texas Tech University, and West Texas A&M University, researches innovative management technologies appropriate for the Ogallala Aquifer region of the U.S. to enhance rural economies. The results are applicable to other areas in which there is increasing demands on the water supply. The research addresses issues related to water management practices in cropping and integrated crop-livestock systems, irrigation management and automation for increased water use efficiency and dry land crop production. Knowledge of the processes affecting soil water content during the growing season and fallow periods facilitate refinement of models to simulate water balance and assist in assessing the merits of alternative practices. Longer-term studies quantify the effects of tillage practices and crop rotations on crop yield, water use efficiency, and soil characteristics for wheat-sorghum-fallow crop rotations and alternative cropping sequences. Experiments include variations in irrigation methods, irrigation amount, tillage, and/or crop and crop rotation. University partners have critical roles in supporting the above activities as well as providing additional expertise in technology transfer, hydrology and economic assessments of existing and future water conservation technologies and policies. Economic assessments use farm and county-level optimization models that begin with the initial county values for crop acreage, irrigated acreage, average saturated thickness, and depth to water. The models estimate the level of crop production and water use that optimize farm net income over 60 years. Crop yield will be determined by a production function that estimates yield as a response to applied water. The technology transfer team works with other participating scientists to assist in developing audience-appropriate publications and presentations, incorporating various text, video, and even social-media friendly formats. Traditional effective extension delivery methods, including public and targeted audience meetings, workshops, field days, and mass media will be complemented by emerging delivery formats. Support from cooperating university is evaluated annually. Work plans are developed for each project describing the research to be conducted during a 2-year period. These work plans are peer-reviewed, which assesses the work plan's science and ability to meet program objectives. Ogallala Aquifer Project's leadership team review the results of the peer review process and confirm work plans worthy of support. Typically, one out of three work plans are selected for support. Yearly workshops are held with stakeholders and cooperating scientists; these workshops are used to review progress, re-define or clarify research priorities, and inform stakeholders, project leaders and administrators. Annual and final reports are used to document progress of the research.