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Ogallala Aquifer Virtual Summit to tackle tough questions

Shelley E. Huguley swfp-shelley-huguley-sprinkler-head.jpg
Ogallala Aquifer Virtual Summit to be held Feb. 24-25, 2021.
Summit topics focus on water management along with producers and rural communities who rely on the Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest fresh groundwater resources, underlying 175,000 square miles or 112 million acres across eight states. Water pumped from the High Plains aquifer system supports nearly 30% of the U.S. irrigated crop production along with cattle, dairy and hog production, according to ogallalawater.org.  

The aquifer is recharged primarily by precipitation. Use along with limited rainfall has reduced the aquifer's water quantity and quality. To address concerns and ongoing aquifer projects and priorities that could benefit producers, communities and the aquifer, an Ogallala Aquifer Virtual Summit is being held Feb. 24-25, 2021.  

Producers and other water management leaders from each of the eight states overlying the Ogallala Aquifer (South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas) will gather to address the following questions: 

1. 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? 

2. 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? 

Topics covered during the summit will include updates on projects, new programs, activities and policies inspired, in part, to an earlier eight-state Ogallala summit held in Garden City, Kan., in April of 2018. 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, according to a recent release.  

“Water conservation technologies are helpful, and we need more of them, but human decision-making is the real key to conserving the Ogallala,” said Brent Auvermann, center director, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Research, Amarillo. “The emergence of voluntary associations among agricultural water users to reduce groundwater use is an encouraging step, and we need to learn from those associations’ experiences with regard to what works, and what doesn’t, and what possibilities exist that don’t require expanding the regulatory state.” 

Registration for the summit is $40; the fee for producers and students attending the 2-day event is $20. A detailed schedule of this event is available at https://www.ogallalawater.org/.  

The summit is hosted by the USDA-NIFA Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (OWCAP) team, the Kansas Water Office, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, and the USDA-ARS supported Ogallala Aquifer Program. 

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