At 8 a.m. (CST) on February 24 and 25, producers and other water management leaders will grab their coffee cups, fire up their devices, and wade into a series of highly interactive conversations designed to tackle several tough questions faced by communities that rely on the declining Ogallala aquifer resource. For example, what on-farm, district, or state-level decisions and policies could support shifts in water management to ensure future generations will be able to continue to farm and live in the Ogallala region? What can be done so that rural communities remain vital in parts of the region where aquifer depletion means irrigated agriculture will no longer serve as much of an economic backbone in coming years or decades?
This event is being led by the USDA-NIFA Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (OWCAP) team, along with the Kansas Water Office, Texas A&M AgriLife, and the USDA-ARS supported Ogallala Aquifer Program, and support from individuals in all eight Ogallala states. Between the pandemic, an extended period of drought, and lower commodity prices, summit organizers wondered if producers and other water management leaders would be inclined to meet virtually. Together, they assessed that the value of this event, which encourages people to meet one another and exchange a wealth of practical and technical expertise, would not be diminished if held online. In fact, more than ever, having an opportunity to help people connect and hear from one another and from producers in particular on many important dimensions of the water-dependent future of this region, seemed right and necessary. This event will serve as the capstone outreach event for OWCAP, an interdisciplinary, collaborative research and outreach project underway since 2016 involving researchers from 9 institutions based in 6 of the 8 Ogallala states.
Topics covered during the summit will include updates on projects, new programs, activities and policies that were inspired at least in part due to an earlier 8-state Ogallala summit event held in Garden City, Kansas in April of 2018. Together, participants will share their expertise and identify opportunities and gaps requiring attention, resources, and expanded collaboration within and across state lines to benefit agriculture and the region’s communities.
“The increasing depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is one of the most daunting water problems in America. Extending and restoring the life of this resource, and, in turn, the economies and livelihoods that depend on it, will require collaboration across a diverse range of water-focused stakeholders and entities,” said Connie Owen, Director of the Kansas Water Office. “This summit will provide a unique opportunity to foster and strengthen that collaboration. It will cover emerging innovations, research, and policies as well as help identify opportunities for working together across state lines to address the water-related challenges facing this region and its communities.”
Registration for the summit costs $40; the fee for producers and students attending the 2-day event is $20. Participants from each of the eight states overlying the Ogallala aquifer will be represented: South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. A detailed schedule of this event is available at https://www.ogallalawater.org/. Members of the media are invited to attend.