KU, K-State professors join forces to help preserve Kansas River Basin

Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 9:19 AM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - Professors from both the University of Kansas and Kansas State University have joined forces to help preserve the Kansas River Basin and research climate risks for farmers.

Kansas State University says Vaishali Sharda, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering, has been honored with a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to develop water and nutrient management strategies in order to help manage climate risks and preserve resources in the eastern Kansas River Basin.

K-State said Sharda is the lead from the university for the 4-year $750,000 project, “Irrigation at the new 100th Meridian: Adaptation to manage climate risks and preserve water resources in the Eastern Kansas River Basin,” alongside coinvestigator Katherin Nelson, assistant professor of geography.

The University noted that the pair will work together with principal investigator Sam Zipper and Erin Seybold from the University of Kansas Center for Research and the Kansas Geological Survey.

K-State indicated that the project is meant to help the region adapt to current and future changes in climate as the 100th meridian - which separates the arid western U.S. from the humid eastern - shifts eastward. It said the hydroclimatic conditions that characterize the 100th meridian are expected to continue to move east throughout the 21st century.

“This ‘new 100th meridian’ caused by eastward aridification will introduce novel climate risks and require new management strategies, such as the expansion of irrigation, for a large U.S. agricultural region,” Sharda said. “Our goal is to develop water and nutrient management strategies that can enhance crop productivity, protect water quantity and quality, and sustain agricultural communities in the face of these novel climate risks in the eastern Great Plains.”

Sharda said the group will identify potential climate risks that agricultural producers in the region face, develop a range of effective water and nutrient management strategies and quantify the agronomic and hydrologic outcomes for each scenario.

Sharda also indicated that the project will provide a fundamental understanding of how interconnected groundwater-surface water system responds to climate change and management practices at the field scale, as well as predict water quantity and quality outcomes for future climate and management scenarios.

“We will generate maps of community resilience for all climate and adaptation scenarios modeled in this study to identify ‘hotspots’ of concern across the region,” Sharda said. “The project will identify sustainable transition pathways for the agricultural communities of the region to manage emerging climate risks without depleting or degrading water resources.”