Kevin Boatright
Office of Research

KU to host Big 12 universities water workshop

Fri, 11/14/2014

LAWRENCE – Water use – and abuse – has emerged in recent years as a major challenge in Kansas, affecting all aspects of life in the state. It is a focus for multidisciplinary research at the University of Kansas and is the subject of a statewide policy initiative, the 50-Year Vision for the Future of Water in Kansas.

Water is also a concern beyond the borders of the state. A distinguished group of researchers from all Big 12 universities will meet Tuesday, Nov. 18, in Lawrence to share their findings and discuss opportunities for future intercampus collaborations concerning water.

The workshop will be preceded Monday, Nov. 17, by a panel discussion on “Confronting the Continuing Depletion of the High Plains Aquifer in Western Kansas.” It will take place at 5 p.m. at The Oread, 1200 Oread Ave. Rex Buchanan, interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey, will serve as moderator. Panelists will be Jay Garetson, a farmer who irrigates in southwest Kansas; Stan Townsend, a farmer who irrigates in northwest Kansas; and Mark Rude, executive director of Groundwater Management District 3 in Garden City. The program is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow. 

Tuesday’s workshop will include participants from KU, Kansas State University, Iowa State University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma, Texas Tech University, Baylor University, Texas Christian University, the University of Texas at Austin and West Virginia University. Jeff Vitter, KU provost and executive vice chancellor, will open the workshop at 8 a.m., and the program continues through noon at the Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union. It is also free and open to the public.

George M. Hornberger, Distinguished University Professor at Vanderbilt University, will give keynote remarks at the workshop. He will speak on “Challenges and Opportunities in Water Resources Research and Education.” Hornberger is director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and the Environment and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

“Research and education in water resources will be different in the future than today, primarily because humans have become such a dominant part of the water cycle,” Hornberger said. “In addition to important work in the many disciplinary areas that are part of water resources science and engineering, there is a need for interdisciplinary research that takes advantage of cutting-edge technologies to grapple with the complex water-related challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Six overview talks will be presented Tuesday morning. They will lay out key problems, the state of the science and possible paths forward:

  • “Can We Eat, Drink AND Turn on the Lights?,” Danny Reible, Donovan Maddox Engineering Chair, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Texas Tech University
  • “Shale Gas Development in the Appalachian Basin: Water Requirements, Management, and Quality Implications,” Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, West Virginia University
  • “Desalination: Prospective Technology for Mitigating Water Scarcity,” Jadwiga (Jad) Ziolkowska, assistant professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, University of Oklahoma
  • “Reservoir Sedimentation: A Focus on Upstream Sources,” Garey Fox, interim director, Oklahoma Water Resources Center, professor and Orville L. and Helen L. Buchanan Chair of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Oklahoma State University
  • “Nutrients in Agriculture and the Environment,” Nathan Nelson, associate professor, soil fertility and nutrient management, Kansas State University
  • “Assessing the Major Drivers of Water-Level Declines: New Insights into the Future of the High Plains Aquifer,” Jim Butler, geohydrology section chief, Kansas Geological Survey, KU.

Tuesday afternoon, more than 40 invited researchers from Big 12 universities will convene in breakout sessions to discuss further opportunities for regional collaborations related to water research.

More information about the Big 12 Universities Water Workshop is available online.

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