The High Plains Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world, supports nearly 30 percent of U.S. irrigated agriculture. The area exemplifies groundwater challenges found worldwide, namely how to sustainably manage an aquifer at a time of increasing demands from food production, drinking water consumption, urbanization and climate change.
Achieving better aquifer management in the future will require a comprehensive understanding of the region’s climate, soils, agronomy, hydrology, socioeconomics and water governance. For this purpose, in 2015 the USDA provided a $10-million, four-year grant for the Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (OWCAP), led by Colorado State University with the Nebraska Water Center (NWC) and the University of Nebraska among project partners, including Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, New Mexico State University, Texas Tech University, West Texas A&M University, Texas A&M AgriLife and the USDA ARS.
The USDA funding is being used to develop and share practical, science-supported information about best practices for irrigation, crop and soil management, and economics, policy and decision-making. The NWC, part of DWFI, leads the University of Nebraska’s efforts in this project.
In FY2019, NWC postdoctoral research associates contributed groundwater and crop modeling expertise that strengthened the project. Their models for corn, soybean and winter wheat helped project economists run scenarios to understand the impact of future management decisions on groundwater levels.
Team members are sharing findings through published articles that become a part of permanent scientific scholarship.