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Marston Funded for Conserving Water While Preserving Ag Livelihoods
Kansas Ag Connection - 12/13/2019

A novel self-governance system, focused on a section of the High Plains Aquifer, will be aided by research at Kansas State University that will develop decision-support tools and understanding to help irrigators and groundwater management districts better regulate scarce groundwater and slow the trend of its depletion.

Landon Marston, Peggy and Gary Edwards Cornerstone teaching scholar and assistant professor of civil engineering, has been awarded more than $250,000 over a three-year period from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research toward this effort.

The foundation builds unique public-private partnerships to support innovative science addressing today's food and agriculture challenges. Its ultimate goal is to provide every person with access to affordable nutritious food grown on thriving farms.

Marston's research project, "Achieving Sustainable Groundwater Management Through Innovative Governance and Optimal Agricultural Water Use Under Conflicting Objectives," will create new knowledge and decision-making tools to help irrigators conserve scarce water resources while preserving their livelihood. Decision-support systems developed will aid farmers in formulating optimal, multiyear cropping and water-allocation strategies under uncertain climatic and market conditions, and conflicting objectives.

"Previous research has demonstrated that technological advances by themselves are insufficient in reducing water scarcity," Marston said. "For this reason, this study will investigate innovative stakeholder-driven water governance frameworks developing in the High Plains, the first of which has demonstrated initial success in mitigating groundwater depletion."

In further advancing the university's efforts to be a leader in sustainable agriculture and water management, the study will seek approaches to make these frameworks more functional and tractable elsewhere to preserve groundwater for future food production and other uses. The decision-support system developed will help answer pressing questions related to both individual and system-level water management goals, which may be competing.

"New information and decision-support tools generated by this study will lead to more sustainable water management by those seeking innovative solutions to overcoming water scarcity," Marston said. "It is anticipated that study findings, tools and stakeholder successes will be adaptable to other areas, as well as provide guidance to other states across the country who are currently exploring sustainable water management strategies."

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