The importance of groundwater used for agriculture and the dominance of agriculture as an economic driver in the Ogallala Aquifer region cannot be overstated. Given current levels of withdrawals from the aquifer and concerns with water quality, the decisions farmers and ranchers are making today related to water management will profoundly impact how tomorrow’s producers will survive or thrive in the Ogallala region.
Where are we today and where are we headed with managing the Ogallala aquifer resource? Are there collaborative opportunities within and across state lines that could be leveraged to help address the region’s water-related challenges? In April 2018, more than 200 water management leaders from all eight Ogallala states gathered in Garden City to discuss these questions at the Ogallala Aquifer Summit.
The Summit, which was focused on the theme Cultivating Interstate Conversation, was developed by a multi-state planning team led by staff from the 6-state USDA-NIFA funded Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP) and the Kansas Water Office. This event fulfilled an action item in Kansas’ Long-Term Vision for the Future of Water Supply in Kansas, which calls for bringing together water management leaders from states overlying the aquifer to explore interstate opportunities for managing the aquifer for benefit of the Ogallala communities and the agricultural industry. Meanwhile, the Ogallala Water CAP was funded by USDA-NIFA to engage in and encourage interstate and interdisciplinary exchange in order to boost our understanding and adoption of productive and profitable strategies for water management in the region.
Summit participants included producers, commodity leaders, representatives from water management districts, technology companies, Federal agencies and non-profits, researchers, students, policy makers, and elected officials. Over two days, the group exchanged expertise and perspectives on effective management practices and support systems (local, state, and Federal policies, incentive and educational programs, markets, etc.) with potential to conserve water and sustain the Ogallala region’s agricultural productivity.
The meeting’s format of keynotes, panels, and workshops covering information on producer practices, science, and policy fed into a final, capstone workshop in which participants identified important cross-state relationships and prioritized activities that could be acted upon in the near term (over the next 12-36 months) with potential to benefit the region over the long term. This report provides an overview of the panels and input shared by participants during the Summit’s workshops.