WERA1020: Western Region Multistate Coordinating Committee on Water Resources

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

WERA1020: Western Region Multistate Coordinating Committee on Water Resources

Duration: 10/01/2012 to 09/30/2017

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Water is a key natural resource issue that will only grow in importance in the western
United States over the coming years. Water quantity already limits agricultural (Ag)
productivity, environmental health, and recreational amenities, but threatens to
further limit the well being of our economy in coming years as population growth
and attendant energy needs put pressure on limited water resources. Water quality
impairments further constrain limited supplies. Freshwater ecosystems, already
impaired in many basins, will be further threatened under projected climate
forecasts, requiring more water for environmental flows, not less. Endangered
species concerns, such as the recent problem in the Bay Delta, will potentially
disrupt Ag diversions at critical times during the cropping season, when producers
are most at risk. Ag currently consumes over 70% of total freshwater diverted,
competing with the energy sector, which comes in a distant second. Even so, energy
and other users can often out-spend Ag for water. It is important to recognize that
while only 15% of total U.S. crop acres are irrigated, approximately 40% of total crop
value comes from these acres, including many of the economically important grain,
vegetable, and fruit crops. The High Plains Aquifer, for example, irrigates almost 15
million acres in eight states from 165,000 irrigation wells, comprising 25% of all
irrigated acres in the U.S. and much of the large-scale confined animal feeding.

We must create new mechanisms for increasing Ag productivity while using less
water. Promising approaches include: developing new crop varieties and cropping
systems; sharing water between Ag, cities, and the environment; marketing ag
water; transitioning to dryland and limited irrigation strategies; modernizing water
distribution networks; developing economic tools to help producers determine
highest use of their available water; linking life-cycle of energy and water inputs to
ag production systems; developing ag systems that are resilient to uncertain water
supplies and drought; and improving ag water management institutions, policies
and organizations. Additionally, our catchments, particularly forest and rangeland,
must be actively managed to sustain necessary water resources and preserve
functioning ecosystems and watersheds.

USDA-NIFA has provided funding under Section 406 for the past decade for an
effective, coordinated National Water Program that uses integrated approaches to
solving complex water quality and water quantity problems. Integrated, multi-
disciplinary approaches are more effective than traditional single-discipline (i.e., soil
science or plant pathology) approaches. As USDA-NIFA looks for a new funding and
programmatic model to integrate water resources research, teaching and outreach
coordination, a Western Multi-State Coordinating Committee is needed to fill the gap
created by the completion of the current cycle of Regional Integrated Water Projects.
In addition, there are a number of existing networks and applied research programs
with which we need to link to solve critical water resources problems. USDA-NRCS
and ARS, Cooperative Extension, Ag Experiment Stations, Water Resources Institutes,
existing Multi-State Committees and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) all
have unique roles that should not be duplicated. The niche of Land Grant
Institutions (LGI) water programs should be to foster the integration of university
research, teaching, outreach and partnering to translate science into actionable
results. One necessary component is more significant partnerships with USDA-ARS
and NRCS. The 1994 institutions and Hispanic serving institutions (HSI) in the
Western Region should also be nurtured to create linkages to underserved audiences
and build capacity within these institutions.

The proposed Regional Water Resources Coordinating Committee will include
representation from all 13 western states, Insular territories in the pacific and 1994
LGIs. Once formed, the team will develop specific output and outcome goals that
are complementary to the other existing water-related Western Multi-state
Committees, in particular, W2128 Microirrigation for sustainable water use, W2170
Soil-Based Use of Residuals, Wastewater and Reclaimed Water, W2190 Water Policy
and Management Challenges in the West, WDC018 Meteorological and Climate Data
to Support ET-Based Irrigation Scheduling, Water Conservation, and Water Resources
Management, WERA103 Nutrient Management and Water Quality, and WERA1011
Sustainable Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship.


  1. Hold an annual Coordinating Committee meeting to (a) foster collaboration and synergy on programs to address priority water quantity and water quality problems in the West, (b) create more effective and numerous linkages of expertise and knowledge among researchers and practitioners in multiple disciplines at western LGI and other appropriate public/private agencies, and (c) develop specific annual outputs and outcomes.
  2. Establish priorities for LGI work on western water resources.
  3. Develop project proposals to address priority water issues and needs.
  4. Sponsor a biennial, region-wide conference on Water Resources in the West (rotated throughout the region), highlighting the specific challenges of the region and seeking solutions.
  5. Develop a web-based communications portal for LGI water programs and curricula that can be shared and adapted to different audiences and needs (e.g., general public, ag and urban professional development, K12, agencies, universities, and local areas in different states).

Procedures and Activities

Although this will be primarily a LGI-based project, we will encourage representation and participation from partner agencies, NGOs, and the private sector.

1. Procedure: An annual meeting of project participants will be held in a western state each year to address the projects objectives.

Activity: Coordinate with the Administrative Advisor to develop the first meeting (location, agenda, etc.). Subsequent meetings will be planned and coordinated by the newly-elected chair and vice chair of the committee.

2. Procedure: A work plan will be written to identify mechanisms for better coordination of LGI water programs across the West with the goal of establishing and promoting the adoption of research-based methods to protect water resources.

Activities: Define 5-yr. work priorities for integrated water quantity and quality activities that are needed to solve water resource problems, in consultation with key stakeholders. Completed during the first year and revisited each year to maintain relevance.

3. Procedure: Teams will be recruited and formed as appropriate to develop proposals in response to targeted RFAs released by state and federal agencies and foundations.

Activities: Seek external funding, through collaborative grant-writing efforts, to develop programs and projects that address priority water resource issues in the West. Develop partnerships with strategic partners and key stakeholders to respond to funding opportunities.

4. Procedure: A steering committee will be established to develop and conduct a biennial, region-wide conference that will be rotated throughout the region.

Activities: Seek external funding, through collaborative grant-writing efforts, to produce the first conference in year two of the project cycle. Appoint a steering committee to establish the program, speakers, location, and advertising (year one). The entire committee will determine a conference theme for year one.

5. Procedure: The committee will be responsible for developing a web-based clearinghouse to provide water resources information, tools, and resource materials to target audiences.

Activities: Develop a workplan for web-based clearinghouse development. Coordinate with eXtension and other sources where possible to avoid duplication. The workplan should contain grant-writing plans to obtain external funding, objectives with timelines, and responsible parties. Begin workplan development in year two, with the final website completed by year three.

6. Procedure: The committee will establish an output and outcome evaluation subcommittee to ensure that specific goals are established and met.

Activities: Members of this subcommittee will hold teleconferences throughout the year with representatives of the various committee project groups to find out what is being accomplished regarding the overall committees objectives. This subcommittee will collect and evaluate the outputs and outcomes of the overall committee for progress and final reports.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • New multidisciplinary approaches to specific water challenges in the West.
  • New collaborative research and extension projects and programs that fit the needs of the Western Region to enhance and protect our water resources.
  • Increased awareness and knowledge of water quality issues and tools by Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, conservation districts, landscapers, watershed managers, NRCS Technical Service Providers, and others.
  • Increased adoption and use of BMPs for water quality by farmers, ranchers, institutions and municipalities, range managers, custodians of natural areas, landscape professionals, homeowners, and others.
  • Increased adoption of water conservation measures and practices in western watersheds.
  • Outcome/Impact 6; Improved food and water security in the West.;

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

1. Annual Meeting. Western water quantity and quality issues, research needs, educational approaches, and novel solutions to water challenges will be topics for discussion at the annual meeting among professionals from multiple disciplines at western region universities and public agencies. The annual meeting will provide a forum for these professionals to discuss issues, dilemmas, and successes, and to take advantage of opportunities for collaboration.

2. Biennial Workshop on Water Resources Research, Education, Extension, and Outreach in the West. The committee will sponsor a biennial region-wide workshop in conjunction with a national or regional conference to foster interagency and regional linkages, dialogue, collaboration, learning, and information dissemination among professionals from multiple disciplines, with an emphasis on solving water quantity and quality problems in the West. Diverse stakeholder involvement will be encouraged.

3. Grant Development. A primary role of this committee will be to write integrated, multi-state grant proposals.


An Administrative Advisor representing Extension will guide the committee and report to the western regional Deans and Directors. Because a primary objective of this committee is to foster integrated research, teaching, and extension involving all disciplines relating to water resources, we request the Deans and Directors sponsor at least two professionals from each state to attend the annual meetings as voting members; anyone else may participate. Officers will include a chair, vice-chair (who records meeting minutes and maintains a current email list), and a past-chair. Elections will occur toward the end of the annual meeting, and officers will be installed immediately.

Land Grant Participating States/Institutions:
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming

Non-Land Grant Participating States/Institutions: Tribal Colleges, State Water Boards, State Departments of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Districts, Environmental and Water NGOs, Family Farm Alliance, Commodity Groups

Sponsoring Directors:
Dr. Glen Whipple, Director, University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension
Dr. Lou Swanson, Vice President of Engagement and Extension Director, Colorado State University Extension

Literature Cited


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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