Water for Food

Water for Food Blog


By 2050, the planet’s population is expected to reach nine billion people. Ensuring that these additional billions have access to enough food for a healthy, active life while reducing pressure on increasingly scarce and threatened water resources is one of the of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.

In the Water for Food Blog, we examine the issues, explore current trends and highlight developments here in Nebraska and around the world.

Visit us often to go inside the latest research, read notes from the field, hear about what’s working and what isn’t, browse our infographics and videos, and keep up to date on what’s new at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska.

Welcome! We encourage your participation as we explore the future of water for food.

If you would like to share an article on the Water for Food Blog, please see our guest blog submission guidelines(Microsoft Word .DOCX file)

Research Forum highlights promising solutions for a water and food secure future

For as long as farmers have been sowing seeds and harvesting crops, they’ve looked for ways to improve yields. “Imagine the look on the farmers’ face when we introduced Roundup. Weeds that had choked their fields literally disappeared. Plants thrived, producing bushels and bushels more per acre,” said Dion McBay, global sustainable lead for Monsanto… [Read More]

Nebraska’s water productivity for crops and livestock is improving. Will the trend continue?

April 17, 2018

A steer grazes on fall oats (cover crops). Credit: IANR UNL

By: Mesfin Mekonnen, postdoctoral researcher, Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute The world is facing a balancing act: working to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 while being good stewards of our limited natural resources. To achieve this balance, we must understand how our water is allocated and how well we are using… [Read More]

Empowering Decision Support with Big Data

April 4, 2018

This blog originally appeared on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Global Food for Thought Blog. By: Lacey Bodnar Farmers everywhere are facing the challenge of improving agricultural productivity to meet the growing demands of an increasing and wealthier population, while placing less pressure on scarce water resources. The potential to increase yields and water… [Read More]

What can Nebraska teach the American West about managing water? A lot.

March 2, 2018

By: Christina Babbitt, senior manager, California Groundwater Program, Environmental Defense Fund This blog originally appeared on the Environmental Defense Fund’s Growing Returns Blog   Nebraska is one of the top producers of corn, soybeans and hogs in the country. With 91 percent of the state’s total land area dedicated to agricultural production, a lot of… [Read More]

Hands-on learning approach prepares future water for food leaders

February 27, 2018

Former intern James Garza

By: Ellen Emanuel, program coordinator “My internship at Water for Food gave me direction for my future career. Discovering that I wanted to work in water gave me focus and made me more passionate about school.” -Alexander Stejskal, former DWFI intern The Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute (DWFI) offers students at the University of… [Read More]

Water for Food looks to lend a hand, expertise to Kenyan orphanage

January 19, 2018

DWFI irrigation specialist Lameck Odhiambo and Nyumbani Village executive director Sr. Mary Owens take a break from the site visit for a photo.

By Jesse Starita, education and outreach coordinator Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute irrigation specialist Lameck Odhiambo recently paid a visit to his native Kenya. But unlike any past visit, this one led to a place he’d never been: Nyumbani, a 1,000-acre village sheltering 1,000 children and 100 grandparents whose mothers, fathers, sons and daughters… [Read More]

Season’s greetings – reflections on 2017 and the year ahead

December 18, 2017

Collage of blog images from the last year

By Peter G. McCornick, Executive Director The challenges with global water and food security are complicated and pervasive. Solving one problem often gives rise to others, and best practices or technologies that are successful in one environment, such as Nebraska, often do not transfer easily to other contexts due to differences in socio-political and cultural… [Read More]

Finding what works: Groundwater management in the western U.S.

December 15, 2017

Photo of a mountain range in California

By Kate Gibson, program coordinator This article originally appeared on the Groundwater Foundation’s website as part of its Fall 2017 “Aquifer” newsletter. Whether it is used as a primary water source or as a buffer for variable surface water supplies, groundwater provides water security to support economic development worldwide. However, groundwater is a difficult resource to… [Read More]

Indonesia looks to Nebraska to address yield gap

December 11, 2017

Rice field in Banten Province, Indonesia (by Patricio Grassini)

By: Dana Ludvik With a population expected to reach 322 million by 2050, Indonesia is taking steps to ensure that the country’s agriculture sector is prepared to meet future water and food demands. In 2016, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture launched a partnership with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to gain a better understanding of its… [Read More]

Paid to pump: Policy brief analyzes potential impacts of tax policy on groundwater conservation

December 6, 2017

Photo of Corn

An important goal of the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute is to improve groundwater management for agricultural production. One challenge when working with groundwater is that it’s literally underground! As a result, it’s often hard to understand and picture what’s happening in an aquifer in terms of the physical flow of water. But it’s… [Read More]

Minimizing the impacts of agriculture on water resources

August 30, 2017

center-pivot irrigated field

By: Pongpun Jantakut, Ph.D. student, Nebraska Water Center This commentary originally appeared on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ website as part of its 2017 Next Generation Delegates blog series. Due to increasing population growth and food demand around the world, global food crises are increasingly likely to happen. Thus, food security can be a… [Read More]

Interns explore water use in farming at the field level in western Nebraska

August 7, 2017

By Alexander Stejskal The first stop on the trip was Paulman Farms in Sutherland, Nebraska, located about 20 miles west of North Platte. Roric Paulman was kind enough to give the intern team a glimpse into life as a Nebraska farmer, as well as some insight into his decision-making strategies. Paulman began the tour of… [Read More]

Water and natural resources tour visits Nebraska’s central Platte River basin

July 18, 2017

Jasmine Mausbach, intern, Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute The 46th annual Water and Natural Resources Tour focused on Nebraska’s central Platte River basin and the many uses and users associated with what is arguably Nebraska’s most important surface water resource. The tour, organized by the Nebraska Water Center, took place June 27-29 with 60… [Read More]

Student field trip sheds light on Nebraska’s farm communities

July 12, 2017

By Morgan Spiehs, program associate After three weeks of research, student interns working with the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute ventured into the field: a field in Hall County, Nebraska, to be exact. The June 7 outing was part of the institute’s summer internship program, designed to foster future leaders in water and food… [Read More]

Testing Ag Performance Solutions

July 10, 2017

By Jesse Starita This blog originally appeared on the Valmont Industries Irrigation.Education blog on July 6, 2017  A new competition is being played in fields across Nebraska where growers take on University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists and students to see who can out-farm the other. This competition is called Testing Ag Performance Solutions, or TAPS. Competitors… [Read More]

DWFI hosts first AquaCrop-OS workshop

May 11, 2017

By Kate Gibson, program coordinator On April 10, the conference room at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute was packed with nearly 30 researchers, students and humming laptops. The group gathered to participate in the first ever AquaCrop-OS workshop held in conjunction with the 2017 Water for Food Global Conference and co-hosted… [Read More]

Students examine professional development for today’s water economy

May 10, 2017

By Aude Gaju Ngoga, Shelby Wolfe and Alivia Michalski, interns A developing project led by interns at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute aims to better understand the professional development needed for success in this sector. In addition to researching specific jobs and their availability, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln students also set… [Read More]

Students highlight the importance of science literacy in the water for food challenge

May 4, 2017

By Kathryn Bagniewski, communications ambassador, Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute During the 2017 Water for Food Global Conference, University of Nebraska–Lincoln students filled the sunlit hallway of the Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center to present infographics exploring various water issues. The student work was part of SCIL109 “Water in Society,” an introductory class targeted… [Read More]

Mapping Ecosystem Markets

April 8, 2017

By Christopher Hartley, Deputy Director and Senior Environmental Markets Analyst, Office of Environmental Markets, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Washington, D.C. and Genevieve Bennett, Senior Associate, Ecosystem Marketplace Hartley is a featured speaker at the 2017 Water for Food Global Conference. He is involved in the sessions, “Water Frontiers I: Drought, Water Risk and the Context… [Read More]

Groundwater governance – A pathway to sustaining the benefits of groundwater and its contribution to food security

April 4, 2017

By Mohamed Bazza, Senior Water Resources Officer, Land and Water Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Italy Bazza is a featured speaker at the 2017 Water for Food Global Conference session on “Groundwater Governance from Field to Global Scales,” April 12 from 10:30-noon CT. The session will be streamed live on our… [Read More]

Reflections on climate change, the Middle East and U.S. Policy

By James Garza, intern, Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute My interest in the Middle East led me to an internship with the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, researching water and food security issues. In this role, I work to inform others about complex challenges in the Middle East, including the normalized conflict and… [Read More]

Research promotes groundwater protection in Ghana

March 13, 2017

Mustapha Alhassan, PhD student Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska–Lincoln “…When I got married to my husband and moved to this community, they told me this is the water they drink. I did not believe it until I started drinking it because it is the only water available for me to drink. I am… [Read More]

Microscopes to Kaleidoscopes: The Inseparability of Science and Art

By Madeline Cass, intern, Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute How are art and science related? To the untrained eye, they might seem to exist in different universes. I believe these fields have the potential for collaboration in unexpected and powerful ways. As a visual artist and amateur mycologist, I have a personal interest in… [Read More]

Year in Review, Looking Forward to 2017

December 22, 2016

By: Peter G. McCornick, executive director Happy holidays from all of us at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska. We hope you will enjoy time spent with family and friends and appreciate the good work done during the year. In my first few months as executive director,… [Read More]

Report details the impacts of student-led workshop on the Syrian Crisis

December 19, 2016

By Morgan Spiehs, program associate This spring, the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute (WFI), the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the International Arid Lands Consortium hosted a workshop focusing on water scarcity, human security and democratization in relation to the Syrian refugee crisis in the arid lands of the Middle East. The all-day… [Read More]

AquaCrop-OS exceeds 100 downloads

December 16, 2016

By Morgan Spiehs, program associate Since launching in September, the AquaCrop-OS software tool for agricultural water management has reached more than 100 downloads and received international attention through publications. AquaCrop-OS is the open-source version of AquaCrop, a crop water productivity model that was first developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations… [Read More]

University of Nebraska researcher champions drought management in Africa

December 15, 2016

By Nam Tran, intern Tsegaye Tadesse’s life revolves around helping people prepare for drought. Tadesse, a research associate professor of applied climatology and remote sensing expert in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School of Natural Resources and the National Drought Mitigation Center, is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others by informing them… [Read More]

Water for Food shares its expertise at the World Irrigation Forum

December 14, 2016

By Dana Ludvik The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute was honored to represent the University of Nebraska at the world’s foremost irrigation forum in Thailand last month, a significant opportunity to make new connections and showcase Nebraska’s strong irrigation programs. The 2nd annual World Irrigation Forum (WIF2) was hosted by the Thai… [Read More]

New agricultural ‘big data’ project brings together students, researchers and agricultural producers

December 12, 2016

By Kate Gibson, program coordinator Researchers from the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture have teamed up with students from UNL’s Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management on a new project to help make field-level data more useful to agricultural… [Read More]

WFI hosts national agricultural water management meeting

November 30, 2016

By Morgan Spiehs, program associate For two days in October, Nebraska held the highest concentration of water resource economists in the world. Given the importance of irrigation in Nebraska, the state contains a fair number of them the rest of the year, too. The annual meeting of the W3190 U.S. Department of Agriculture Multistate Research… [Read More]

University of Nebraska Research Puts VRI on the Map

November 22, 2016

Generation upon generation of Nebraska farmers have worked to optimize their use of water through irrigation. In recent years, Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) – which matches the water application rate of center pivots to specific areas of a farmer’s field that need more or less water – has garnered attention as a way to optimize… [Read More]

Cosmic ray technology draws South African graduate student to Nebraska

November 4, 2016

By Molly Nance, director of communications and public relations, Water for Food Global Institute Hydrometeorologist and WFI Global Fellow Colin Everson introduced cosmic ray technology to Thigesh Vather, a doctoral student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Everson has been using the cosmic ray probe in validating hydrometeorological and remote soil moisture sensors,… [Read More]

Nebraska congressional staffers learn about NU’s strengths in water, agriculture and climate

October 19, 2016

Soil moisture data sent by satellite, water contaminants detected in tiny parts per billion, policies that help prevent aquifer depletion — these are a few of the research outcomes that are helping to ensure we’ll have enough freshwater and food for our growing world. On Oct. 11, WFI Directors and Faculty Fellows presented these topics… [Read More]

‘Water in Society’ course helps prepare future decision-makers

October 10, 2016

By Nam Tran, intern, Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska This spring, students at the University of Nebraska will have an opportunity to explore a topic that will undoubtedly impact their lives long after graduation: water and the many ways it touches human life. Water in Society, a new introductory undergraduate… [Read More]

Burdette Barker awarded prestigious fellowship for water for food research

September 19, 2016

By Nam Tran, intern Last month, University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds announced the recipients of the 2016-2017 Presidential Graduate Fellowships. Seven students from across the NU system were selected for the prestigious honor that recognizes high scholastic performance and personal accomplishment. Among the select group is Burdette Barker, a biological systems engineering Ph.D. student… [Read More]

Water for Food Global Institute: Water Trading Demo, Telling Stories in Stockholm for World Water Week

September 13, 2016

The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska made a statement at World Water Week in Stockholm Aug. 28-Sept. 2, leading two sessions and participating in several meetings and events. WFI Executive Director Peter McCornick introduced the first session, “Role Playing How Water Markets Improve Food Security and the… [Read More]

Lenton’s leadership brings ‘transformative change’

September 12, 2016

Global Harvest Initiative recognizes WFI’s efforts under the leadership of Founding Executive Director Roberto Lenton. By: Margaret M. Zeigler, Executive Director Ann Steensland, Deputy Director Global Harvest Initiative August 16, 2016 Dr. Roberto Lenton Founding Executive Director Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute University of Nebraska Lincoln, Nebraska Dear Roberto: On behalf of… [Read More]

Farewell Blog by Roberto Lenton

August 23, 2016

Dear colleagues, Today is my last day as Founding Executive Director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska, and I am writing to say good-bye and to welcome my successor Peter McCornick, who arrives in Lincoln today and will assume his new position tomorrow. Peter is ideally… [Read More]

WFI Faculty Fellows author insightful books on water and food security in Asia and Middle East

August 20, 2016

By Roberto Lenton, Founding Executive Director, Water for Food Global Institute Two upcoming books by Water for Food Global Institute Faculty Fellows illuminate the challenges of ensuring food and water security in Central and Southwest Asia and the Middle East, where growing demands for water and food supplies have been aggravated by conflicts and civil… [Read More]

World Water Week 2016: Water for Food Global Institute shines a light on the roles of policy and communication to address global water challenges

July 22, 2016

By Nam Tran, Water for Food Global Institute intern This year marks the fifth year that the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska will participate in World Water Week, the central forum on global water issues since 1991. The annual conference brings together more than 3,000 water leaders… [Read More]

45th Annual Water and Natural Resources Tour

July 6, 2016

By: Jasmine Mausbach, Intern at Water for Food Global Institute The 2016 water and natural resources tour, hosted by the Nebraska Water Center and the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, took place June 14-16 in Colorado’s central Front Range area and into the interior of the Rocky Mountains. The annual tour examines local… [Read More]

Student researcher awarded FAO-IAEA internship to advance nuclear science for agriculture

June 27, 2016

University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student William Avery will soon be on his way to Austria to begin what will mark an exciting new chapter in his life, both personally and professionally. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have awarded Avery a one-year internship in… [Read More]

Water for Food Global Conference wraps up with discussions on leveraging partnerships from the field to the cloud

May 5, 2016

The 2016 Water for Food Global Conference concluded April 26 with speakers and panel discussions that ranged from a farmer’s view from the field to big data and the controversial topic of water pricing. Participants in the popular View from the Field panel highlighted the theme of catalytic partnerships. The farmer, CEO and watershed manager… [Read More]

Water for Food Global Conference speakers emphasize partnership roles, responsibilities to make lasting impact

May 2, 2016

“I’m an incredible believer in the power of partnerships,” said plenary speaker Pat Mulroy, of the Brookings Institute. The value of catalytic collaborations – the theme of the 2016 Global Water for Food Conference – was evident throughout the second day. Mulroy described the incredible partnership that led to preventing devastating water shortages in southwestern… [Read More]

Irrigation offers huge potential to transform sub-Saharan Africa

April 24, 2016

“If you want a Green Revolution for Africa, you need to start with water,” Melissa Ho, of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, told attendees on the first day of the 2016 Global Water for Food Conference. WFI, KickStart-International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in association with the Water, Land and Ecosystems Program of the… [Read More]

Water-smart investment benefits ripple beyond food security

April 23, 2016

By Meredith Giordano, principal researcher and advisor for research strategy and management, International Water Management Institute; acting director, CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems; Washington, D.C. Nearly four years ago, researchers documented for the first time how farmer-led irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia is transforming food security at an astonishing scale…. [Read More]

Is groundwater the key to increasing food security in Sub Saharan Africa?

By Karen G. Villholth, principal researcher and Yvan Altchenko, senior researcher – hydrogeologist International Water Management Institute; Pretoria, South Africa Sub Saharan Africa is currently experiencing a food crisis due to drought. The World Food Program estimates that 10 million people in the region will require food aid in the coming year. How can water… [Read More]

International cooperation in Jordan: balancing cultural and practical issues

April 22, 2016

By James Garza, Water for Food Institute student intern and global studies major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln A team of Water for Food Institute staff and four student interns traveled to Amman, Jordan March 18-26 to learn first-hand about the impacts of the Syrian crisis on neighboring countries and the difficulties local governments face… [Read More]

Jordan’s Za’atari camp reveals the power of hope, resilience

April 21, 2016

By Madison Thorn, Water for Food Institute student intern and global studies major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln A team of Water for Food Institute staff and four student interns traveled to Amman, Jordan March 18-26 to learn first-hand about the impacts of the Syrian crisis on neighboring countries and the difficulties local governments face… [Read More]

Photographing Jordan: joyous firsts and lessons from a broken lens

April 15, 2016

By Morgan Spiehs, student intern, Water for Food Institute; senior news-editorial and women’s and gender studies major; University of Nebraska–Lincoln A team of Water for Food Institute staff and four student interns traveled to Amman, Jordan March 18-26 to learn first-hand about the impacts of the Syrian crisis on neighboring countries and the difficulties local… [Read More]

Building a holistic team – partnerships to mitigate the impact of climate change on water and food security and health

April 14, 2016

By Elizabeth VanWormer, Water for Food Institute Faculty Fellow and an assistant professor of practice in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. When the warm summer rain falls in Nebraska, three kids in our neighborhood take to the street to construct dams… [Read More]

Addressing Ethiopia’s drought-induced humanitarian crisis

March 31, 2016

By Patrice C. McMahon, Water for Food Institute Faculty Fellow and associate professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Political Science Like many African countries, Ethiopia is currently experiencing its worst drought in almost a century. Ten million people are in need of food aid, while more than 75 percent of the population is… [Read More]

UNL researcher applies expertise in aquifer recharge to arid regions

March 14, 2016

Since 2013, University of Nebraska-Lincoln hydrogeologist and Water for Food Institute Faculty Fellow Vitaly Zlotnik has led efforts at UNL to develop solutions to complex water issues in the Middle East, a region rife with political conflict and environmental challenges. He provided a keynote address at the 2016 International Water Conference at Sultan Qaboos University… [Read More]

Twenty-Five Years of Being on the Cutting Edge of University of Nebraska Research

February 8, 2016

The University of Nebraska Water Sciences Laboratory, part of the Nebraska Water Center and part of the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, is celebrating its Silver Anniversary this year. The lab is a cutting edge core research facility, located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, that provides a range of technical services and expertise in… [Read More]

Happy New Year from the Water for Food Institute!

January 21, 2016

Working with our numerous Faculty Fellows and recently appointed Global Fellows, we enjoyed a year of tremendous progress in 2015, both globally and locally, and look forward to many more advancements and changes in 2016. Our work around the globe increased dramatically in 2015. For example, we initiated a USAID-funded project with several key partners… [Read More]

Growing the gains and pruning the pains in producing Africa’s food

January 6, 2016

Why go gaga about GYGA – the Global Yield Gap Atlas? By: Njeri Okono, communications manager for Africa, International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) This blog originally appeared on the CIMMYT website Dec. 30, 2015. Because GYGA is a crucial pointer to where the greatest gains in food production can be made, and… [Read More]

Pipelines of power: A closer look at Nebraska’s groundwater management

January 4, 2016

By: Brianna Brown, research assistant, Crisis “To me, it became a lot more practical to deal with water as entity [instead of] differentiated from groundwater or surface water. If you think you recognize at the start that you simply were handling water, you weren’t handling groundwater and surface water, you simply were managing your water,… [Read More]

COP 21: A historical achievement and a legacy for future generations

December 16, 2015

By climatologist Donald A. Wilhite, Water for Food Institute Faculty Fellow and professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources The signing of the International Climate Agreement at the 21st annual U.N. climate conference (COP21) in Paris Dec. 13, by 195 countries represents a historical moment and one that we should all be… [Read More]

Understanding agricultural water use in North India

November 11, 2015

About the author: Jimmy O’Keeffe is a PhD student in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College, London. His research focuses on modelling and understanding the small- and large-scale impacts of agricultural water use in part of the vast Indo-Gangetic Plain in India. Jimmy is working with Nick Brozovic, director of policy, and recently spent… [Read More]

Student Interns work on Platte Basin Timelapse Project

November 5, 2015

This summer two undergraduate interns worked on projects associated with the Platte Basin Timelapse Project with funding in part from the Water for Food Institute. The students provided the following blog postings to showcase some of their experiences. Dream Job: Day One By Carlee Koehler The day started how one would expect when setting off… [Read More]

2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report shared at World Food Prize event

October 27, 2015

For the second year in a row, the rate of global agricultural productivity growth continues to stagnate, says a report by the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) released during the World Food Prize conference in Des Moines, Iowa, October 15. The report, with technical support from the Water for Food Institute, states that global agricultural productivity… [Read More]

Learning about the Water-Energy-Food nexus in Nebraska

August 26, 2015

By Paul Noël, Program Associate The “water-energy-food nexus” is a hot topic among researchers at the moment. At the Water for Food Institute, we’ve been working with our partners on a variety of projects to understand the connections between water use, energy use, and agricultural production — and how different management approaches impact the human… [Read More]

Visiting scholars get crash course in Nebraska water management, instream flow issues

August 3, 2015

A Diversion near North Platte, Nebraska.

Many rivers and creeks in the Western United States are over-allocated, with consistently more demand on their waters than is available. This can lead to several issues between competing users, especially in years of drought: transboundary water conflicts, threats to public water supply and perilous conditions for species that depend on river habitats. Various mechanisms have been used to address these challenges, which include interstate compacts, state and federal Endangered Species Acts and local water management institutions. But when these mechanisms are absent or don’t do enough to preserve streamflow, local water trusts and environmental nonprofits have acted to supplement streamflow for wildlife. Read More

Cooperation and Water Security

August 3, 2015

Water for Food Institute Faculty Fellow Patrice McMahon with her daughter Julia near Krakow, Poland.

More than ever, the insights of various disciplines with their unique focal points and methodologies, are required to understand and respond to global security threats. This is particularly true when it comes to new or non-traditional security issues, such as environmental pollution, water scarcity and global warming. These issues not only affect water and food supplies, but they also can directly threaten the livelihoods and well-being of individuals and states. Read More

Water experts share success story of Nebraska’s NRD system of groundwater management

July 28, 2015

Michael Forsberg, Platte Basin Timelapse Project

California’s drought has been in the news a lot recently, and one proposed solution is the recently-enacted California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. What’s often not highlighted in the news is that many other parts of the US and the world have long histories with innovative and effective groundwater management policies. For example, Nebraska’s groundwater management was legislated in the late 1960s, and its unique system of Natural Resources Districts was formed in 1972. Read More

UNL students experience European Water Tour

July 24, 2015

Isaiah Krutak

Two University of Nebraska- Lincoln graduate students recently completed a two-week international field course through UNESCO-IHE, an international institute for water education based in Delft, The Netherlands. UNESCO-IHE equips graduates with the knowledge, skills and competencies they need to address current and future challenges for sustainable local, regional and global water management, with a particular focus on a development context. Read More

Water and Natural Resources Tour explores Republican River Basin

July 16, 2015

Photo by Richael Young

This summer’s Water and Natural Resources Tour included nearly 70 participants, from college students to retired farmers, and most with a firm background in water quality and quantity issues – except for me. As a 19-year-old undergrad student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), I set out with a vague awareness of the water issues facing Nebraska and neighboring state irrigators, but nothing to the extent that was presented on tour. Read More

15th World Water Congress highlights water as a resource for global development

June 25, 2015


The World Water Congress, organized by the International Water Resources Association (IWRA), is one of the most important global events in the water field. Held every three years since 1973, the Congress provides a single forum for experts in water-related fields from around the world. It allows participants to share experiences and to present new knowledge, research, and developments related to water resources. Read More

FAO, Water for Food Institute publish global yield gap analysis report

June 23, 2015


To feed a world population that is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050 requires an estimated 60 percent increase over current agricultural productivity. Closing the gap between actual and potential crop yield is critical to achieve this goal.

A new report published jointly by the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization and the Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska reviews current methods to assess the productivity of crops and cropping systems worldwide. Read More

Global perspective on drought and water management

May 4, 2015


Water for Food Director of Policy Nick Brozovic led a presentation on “Coping with Drought – Institutional Innovation in Water Management” at the Swedish Royal Academy of Agriculture and Forestry in Stockholm, Sweden, in March. Read More

Perspectives on Achieving a Water and Food Secure Future

April 29, 2015


At the 7th World Water Forum in South Korea, many of the world’s top researchers and leaders in the water and food sectors gathered to share ideas and progress toward ensuring a water and secure future. With an expected population growth of 10 billion by 2050, our food production will need to nearly double to meet global demands. Read More

Partnerships pave the way to innovative solutions for water and food security

April 23, 2015

stream sampling (2)

We need a bigger table. There will be over 200,000 more people at the global dinner table tonight than were there last night. By 2050, there will be nearly 10 billion people to feed on this planet. But our population is not only growing, it’s growing wealthier, with increasing demand for food — especially meat and dairy products, requiring more agricultural production and water use. As a result of population increases and rising incomes, total food demand will likely double by 2050 (Earth Policy Institute, 2014). Read More

7th World Water Forum

April 15, 2015


DWFI is pleased to participate in the 7th World Water Forum April 12-17 in Daegu and Gyeongbuk, South Korea. This global event is a valuable opportunity to share the University of Nebraska’s leadership in water management and agriculture, and to learn from others as we work together toward a common goal: to ensure we have enough food and water for a population expected to reach 10 billion in the next 35 years. Read More

World Water Day 2015 – Managing our Water Future: Innovation for Water and Sustainable Development

March 22, 2015


Water is arguably our most precious natural resource, and particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, as well as to the increasing demand for food as our global population grows to 9.6 billion by 2050. Economies and incomes are growing, fueling a revolution in global agriculture that will likely result in nearly a doubling of demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel in the next 35 years.

Currently 70 percent of extracted freshwater worldwide is used for agriculture production. In the absence of progress, water use for agriculture is estimated to grow to 89 percent by 2050,[1] which is clearly untenable given other critical water demands. We must take action to improve how we use, conserve and manage our water supply so that future generations have the opportunity to access sufficient and sustainable sources of food and agriculture products. Read More

World Water Day – info and resources

World Water Day has been observed on 22 March since 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly declared 22 March as “World Day for Water”.Read More

The High Plains Aquifer: Not an Underground Lake

January 16, 2015


The United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a report on the status of the High Plains Aquifer, the largest aquifer in North America and the aquifer that underlies eight states and supplies one-third of the groundwater pumped annually within the United States.

The report highlights that there are some locations in which the High Plains Aquifer has been severely depleted, with the water table dropping more than 150 feet in parts of Kansas and Texas. In other locations, the water levels have remained fairly stable, as is the case in Nebraska. Read More

Researcher brings soil-moisture monitoring technology from the cornfield to the battlefield

December 9, 2014

Trenton Franz

A cosmic-ray neutron rover may sound like something from a science-fiction film, but a University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher is developing the high-tech tool to help the military better understand the harsh environment in which it operates.

Hydrogeophysicist Trenton Franz is exploring ways to use a soil moisture detector he helped create for agriculture to enable the military to quickly and reliably survey, monitor and map soils. Read More

Groundwater in the Mekong Delta

November 26, 2014

Saigon River

The Mekong River is one of the world’s largest rivers. Its headwaters are in China and it runs south through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and finally, Vietnam, where it empties into the sea through the Mekong Delta, a complex network of smaller rivers. Known as the “Nine Dragons Delta” in Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is home to almost 20 million people whose livelihoods depend on fisheries, aquaculture, and agriculture. Despite the abundance of surface water in the area, there is large-scale groundwater pumping for food production, industry, and household needs, and the number of co-existing and connected groundwater management challenges is staggering. Read More

Big data, more crops?

November 18, 2014

Mobile Phones

We have more data than ever to help guide agricultural water management, but will it lead to big gains in productivity? Yes, but only if we get the institutional arrangements right.

On a typical farm in the Midwestern U.S., there are few people about. Despite the growing global demand for food, fewer farmers are needed. Increasingly, modern machinery is now fully automated, often run remotely from a computer terminal. Even irrigation systems can be guided by satellite sourced data on groundwater and rainfall. This is fed directly into simple processors, which then drive controls and motors, allowing smart targeting of water resources to produce maximum yields. The systems are highly efficient, hugely productive and part of a continuing trend toward high-tech farming that has guaranteed food security in the West for three generations.

By contrast, in Africa and Asia, a greater proportion of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, but data is often hard to come by. Read More

The Awakening to the Water for Food Challenge

November 12, 2014

Suat Irmak

As I write this blog post, I am coming off of a very strong and high-quality dialogue of the 2014 Global Water for Food Conference convened by the University of Nebraska Daugherty Water for Food Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This was the 6th Global Water for Food Conference, but the first to be held outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. It was a rousing success with approximately 275 leaders from 32 countries around the world dialoguing for three days on the thematic topic of “Harnessing the Data Revolution” around water sustainability in agriculture and food. The conference was also supported with sponsorship from Monsanto, Syngenta, the Daugherty Foundation, the Global Water Initiative, and the Nebraska Corn Board. Read More

A New Atlas to Shape How We Feed the World

November 5, 2014

Ken Cassman

Participating in the 2014 World Food Prize Week in Des Moines, Iowa has me thinking about water and how we can best use this scarce resource to produce more food.

The world’s population is expected to reach 9 to 10 billion by 2050, causing a doubling in food demand. And not only is the population is growing, it’s also becoming more prosperous. As incomes rise, people have the means to eat more meat and dairy products, which require much more grain. At the same time, corn, soybeans and other crops are being diverted to biofuel production, which places additional pressure on food supply. Urban expansion often comes at the expense of prime agricultural land, with only drier, less fertile land to replace it. The result of these trends is an escalating need for agriculture to produce more food, feed, fiber and fuel on a limited supply of good farmland, and intense competition for water resources. Read More

“Big Data” is Critical to a Water and Food Secure World

November 3, 2014

Ronnie Green

Water, data, and agricultural productivity were on the agenda at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute’s 6th Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington, earlier this month. (The Water for Food Institute is a consultative partner of the Global Harvest Initiative.) Co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the conference attracted more than 250 participants from 25 countries. In his welcoming remarks, Roberto Lenton, founding executive director of the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, told attendees, “the data revolution can help with the productivity and sustainability of farming systems, both large and small, around the world.” Read More

Data one part of harnessing the data revolution

October 22 2014

Ken Cassman

The Water for Food Global Conference in Seattle has concluded, and we’re heading back to Nebraska with new ideas and fresh perspectives on the ways in which data has the opportunity to improve water and food security.

But the data itself is only one piece of harnessing the data revolution, as experts made clear throughout three days of presentations and panel discussions. Read More

5 Data Tools Used to Harness the Data Revolution

October 21 2014

Ken Cassman

The second day of the 2014 Water for Food Global Conference has wrapped. Today, the discussion shifted toward specific tools being used around the world to Harness the Data Revolution. Read More

6 Ways Big Data Helps Improve Global Water and Food Security

October 20 2014

Jeff Raikes

Jeff Raikes, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, said it’s not hyperbole to say that global society is experiencing a data revolution. But that the revolution has yet to reach agriculture.

It’s not surprising the former Microsoft Corp. executive believes in the power of technology, and in particular Big Data. But it’s his experience as the son of a farmer to focus on how technology can help farmers increase yields, improve their livelihoods and collectively meet the food production needs of the world’s people. Read More

Water for Food Global Conference kicks off in Seattle

October 19, 2014

Rolando Flores

The sixth annual Water for Food Global Conference is underway in Seattle, Wash. USA. More than 250 participants and 23 countries are represented at this year’s event, which is focused on the use of data to improve global water and food security. Read More

2014 Water for Food Global Conference Speakers

October 16, 2014


Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska

October 13th, 2014



Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska

October 3, 2014


As Nebraska’s climate changes, the state faces significant economic, social and environmental risks. Because the magnitude and speed of projected changes in climate are unprecedented, it’s imperative that we develop strategies now to adapt to the numerous consequences we’ll continue to experience. Climate change is happening on a global scale, but adapting to change must begin at the local level, where climatic impacts are felt. University of Nebraska faculty recently completed a report, “Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska.” The report’s goal is to inform policymakers, natural resource managers and the public about the state of the science on climate change, current projections for ongoing changes over the 21st century, current and potential future impacts and, finally, management and policy implications of these changes. Read More

Advanced Water Management for Food Program – Evordius Rulazi

September 16th, 2014



Water for Food Faculty Fellows – Health, Science & Engineering

July 28, 2014


Global Water Conflict: Avenues for Cooperation

July 17, 2014

Water remains at the heart of so many conflicts taking place in the world today, particularly in the Middle East, where ethnic and religious tensions exist alongside depleted water resources, uneven access to water and water pollution. Recently, officials even suggested that water may decide the fates of Iraq and Syria as rebels and government forces fight for control of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Global water security is a topic filled with pessimism. Most academic research, at least in my field of international relations, emphasizes the role that water, environmental degradation and resource scarcity play in aggravating regional and global conflict. As a 2012 U.S. government report ominously states: in the next 10 years, water problems will contribute to instability, state failures and violence around the world.

Nonetheless, optimism and hope describe the mood at the recent “Water Security and Peace: Avenues for Cooperation” symposium at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Instead of emphasizing disputes, which is too often the case, we wanted to draw attention to the ways in which cooperation can overcome water conflicts. Read More

Water for Food Faculty Fellows – Environment

June 26, 2014


Faculty Fellows work with Ethiopians to address water insecurity, improve livelihoods

June 20th, 2014



The Elephant in the Room

May 27, 2014

Roberto Lenton, Founding Executive Director for the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, introduced the “Water for Food” panel discussion at Water for Our Future, an event helping shape the agenda for the 7th World Water Forum. Photo credit: ©WWF/McNamara.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on water for food at Water for our Future, a lead-up event to the triennial World Water Forum to be held April 2015. The lively panel discussion was wide-ranging and informative – and to me, at least, very encouraging. I was particularly cheered by three aspects of the discussion. Read More


Water for Food Faculty Fellows – Agriculture

May 23, 2014



What happens in Neb., stays in Neb… and other things you didn’t know about the Ogallala Aquifer

April 29, 2014

James Goeke holds sediment material at a High Plains Aquifer drill site in western Neb. Credit: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

For one thing, the aquifer that most think of — one of the world’s largest that underlies parts of eight U.S. states — is technically not the Ogallala Aquifer, but the High Plains Aquifer.

“That’s been a source of confusion,” said hydrogeologist Jim Goeke, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “We use the names interchangeably, but they’re not the same. We have other productive aquifers in Nebraska in hydraulic connection that encompass the entire High Plains Aquifer.”

But the name aside, what bothers Goeke more is the common misinformation he encounters about aquifers, especially the High Plains. Read More

Nebraska-based 2013 Water for Food Conference presenters, their location and topic

April 9, 2014

Nebraska-based 2013 Water for Food Conference presenters, their location and topic


Climate Panel warns of food and water shortages: DWFI already tackling that challenge

April 4, 2014

drought (2)

This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fifth report and connected – much more clearly than in past reports — climate change with risks to global food production. More dramatic slowdowns in production are likely, the report warned, raising the specter of greater food scarcity at a time when population growth and rising incomes demand even more food.

Though it receives little attention, lack of water is a major reason crop production is suffering global challenges. Water shortages already occur in many of the world’s major food production areas; droughts, floods and other extreme events are on the rise globally; and some 700 million people already live in water-stressed areas. Those numbers will worsen in the years to come as populations and incomes increase and climate change intensifies. Read More

Farming in the Great Plains: ‘Things can go either way.’

April 1, 2014


A year ago, I had a decision to make. It was time to plant, and my ground was ready. But soil temperatures were barely what they should be, and there was snow in the forecast. In my area, everyone knew that the longer we waited, the more yield we could lose. And the unusually wet spring had already delayed planting. But was it still too early? Should I wait until after the snow? Read More


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