W508: Western Water Network for Agriculture and Water Smart Communities: Responding to Climate Change and Other Stressors to Water Resources

(Rapid Response to Emerging Issue Activity)

Status: Active

W508: Western Water Network for Agriculture and Water Smart Communities: Responding to Climate Change and Other Stressors to Water Resources

Duration: 04/15/2021 to 09/30/2022

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

Water is the foundation of thriving agriculture in the western United States. Climate change and competing uses for water are altering patterns of water availability in the West. Increased frequency of drought throughout the West, combined with rapid population growth, is already causing shortages in water supply. In the face of such challenges, success stories from water-smart communities stand out, such as traditionally irrigated agriculture resilience in New Mexico, water marketing to extend water availability throughout the West, and multiuser coordination between agricultural, tribal, and fishery water users in Washington. In these and other examples, stakeholders and researchers have worked to co-produce cutting edge science to support policy change, build strong communities, and increase agricultural productivity. Sustaining western agriculture and vibrant communities requires connections between water users, researchers, and varied stakeholders and decision makers. This project will create a social infrastructure that connects the broad community of researchers, extension professionals, service providers, stakeholders, and policymakers tasked with confronting the West’s most pressing water issues.

Types of Activities

The heart of this project is a network to foster integrated communication between varied water research and stakeholder communities. We will hold a Western Water Network conference with plenary sessions, break-out groups, and water system success stories. The conference will include coordination and planning tracks for stakeholder-led studies, technical topics as well as workshops to identify the key water and agriculture issues of the day, and field station tracks to coordinate work conducted at experimental field stations throughout the West, tapping into the applied experience of local advisory groups. The key tangible output is transdisciplinary interactions with stakeholders and decision makers on a range of scales. The project will build on experience from the water resources research institutes that apply cutting edge science to local water resource issues, conduct assessments of the factors associated with successful water management and water resiliency, and explore the feasibility of innovative water management practices, policies, and institutions. The work will characterize, in collaboration with the USDA climate hubs, the patterns of water availability expressed as water budgets in the West, and we will build teams of extension professionals and researchers by topic area working with stakeholders for project implementation at sites in each western state.

The project’s scope encompasses water-reliant agriculture, ecosystems, and communities in the West, including the Columbia, Rio Grande, and Colorado River Basins. Managing water for production and resilience requires a large-scale approach with fine scale granular applicability, so the project will analyze the entire western U.S. and share data and lessons across the West.

Objectives

  1. The project’s network coordination goal is to develop a social infrastructure and a water information and management exchange program to enhance agricultural productivity, ecosystem health, and community viability in the West.
    Comments: The network coordination objective is to support decision making and policy formulation with an audacious water information coordination approach to secure water in the West for agricultural production while meeting societal and ecosystem needs for the long term. Our specific aim is to build a Western Water Network. The Western Water Network will build upon successes of a leadership team who have been committed to formalizing the network and existing relationships across organizations, states, basins, and groups (see attachment).

Expected Outputs, Outcomes and/or Impacts

This coordinated and comprehensive approach will contribute to more efficient water management for the security of U.S. agriculture, forests, and food, by facilitating decision-making at multiple scales along the western water continuum. Project participants will develop Communities of Practice for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating hydrologic and socioeconomic information to make agricultural, forest, and food systems more resilient. An overall outcome will be a western water coordinating program that serves as a model for water networks spanning the nation.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Literature Cited

Attachments

Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

ID, NM, WA, WY

Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

USDA/FS Rocky Mountain Research Station
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