03/08 - Great Plains regional water symposium comes to Lincoln in October

By: Steve Ress

The Nebraska Water Center at the University of Nebraska will host a nine-state regional water symposium, to look at shared challenges and opportunities, at Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln in October.

The Oct. 24-26 event constitutes a significant break from the traditional state-driven Nebraska water symposium the NWC holds each fall, said NWC director Chittaranjan Ray.

“We think the timing is right for this sort of event and the endless possibilities for multi-state cooperation and collaborations it could bring,” Ray said.

“The water resources of the region are under stress due to increasing demand for irrigation, industrial and municipal use as well as federal needs to maintain instream flows for fish and wildlife and to provide ecosystem services. Groundwater aquifers are also experiencing heavy pumping and in some regions, are losing their saturated thicknesses faster than they are being replenished by recharge,” he said.

Participating states, in addition to Nebraska, are Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, an area Ray regards as a primary food basket not only for the United States, but also for the world.

To keep that bread basket producing, each of the nine states depends heavily on surface water from major river basins, as well as from groundwater sources such as the Ogallala Aquifer, Mississippi Embayment Aquifer in Arkansas and the Cambrian-Ordovician Aquifer system in Iowa and Missouri.

With heavy use of both surface and groundwater sources, each of the nine states are also experiencing similar groundwater contamination issues from natural and man-made sources, effects on water resources from climate change, flooding and leaching and runoff losses of farm applied chemicals and other challenges.

“Since we have similar water issues, a common platform to address water-related problems and to lay out potential solutions to mitigate them received wide support from the Water Resources Research Institute directors in each of the nine states when we talked about doing this symposium,” Ray said.

The symposium will use presentations, posters and panels to cover major issues in the nine-state region, including supply shortages for irrigation, industrial or municipal use, technologies for dealing with groundwater contamination, use of high efficiency irrigation systems to reduce agricultural use, and exploitation of methods to use wastewater from food processing, animal operations or cities for crop use or groundwater recharge, among others.

Monitoring and modeling studies along with stakeholder driven research and educational activities will be showcased.

Issues will be highlighted in the regions’ two major river basins: The Missouri River and Arkansas River.

Water quantity and water quality case studies in each of the nine states will also be presented, Ray said.

“The overall goal is to use the two days to address the current status of water resources in the region in the context of agricultural, public, industrial, and domestic use.”