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K-State Today

December 19, 2013

Ogallala Aquifer Program wins prestigious national award

Submitted by Katie Allen

The depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer has made headlines over the past several years and has been a big concern to many who live in western Kansas. The importance of preserving the Ogallala Aquifer is why Kansas State University teamed up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, or USDA-ARS, as well as other universities, including Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University and West Texas A&M University, to study the aquifer in more detail.

For its work and dedication to finding water-saving solutions, this team of researchers involved in the Ogallala Aquifer Program recently won the 2013 USDA Secretary's Honor Award in the category of enhancing economic vitality and quality of life in rural America. The award is the most prestigious departmental award given by the secretary and was presented in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 10.

Dan Devlin is a K-State Research and Extension faculty member and the director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment and the Kansas Water Resources Institute. He is part of the Ogallala Aquifer Program team and attended the USDA awards ceremony.

“It’s an honor to receive the award,” Devlin said. “It recognizes all the great work our faculty have conducted over a number of years.”

The Ogallala Aquifer Program began about 10 years ago, Devlin said, because many people, particularly in Kansas and Texas, viewed the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer as a major issue and worked to get funding through the USDA-ARS. A goal was to come up with solutions to help sustain the rural economies in those states.

“Our agricultural industry is vital not only in western Kansas, but the entire state of Kansas and even the whole country,” Devlin said. “But, it goes beyond livestock and irrigated production. It’s about sustaining our communities in western Kansas.”

The project has allowed for collaboration among many universities and the USDA-ARS, which Devlin said has been significant. In addition to the collaboration across entities, Devlin said all of the western Kansas agricultural research centers and many areas of academic specialty on the K-State campus, including animal science, agronomy, biological and agricultural engineering, civil engineering and agricultural economics, have come together for program research as well.