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OSU website showcases efforts to enhance ag water supplies


Internet surfers can now see some of the ways in which Oklahoma State University's Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources is enhancing management of the state's water supplies, with a simple click of the mouse.

Located at http://agwater.okstate.edu, the new website for DASNR's Water Research and Extension Center went live early in July.

A key focus of the site is to provide access to the latest goings-on in the division relative to its many and varied water-related projects, said Dave Engle, center director and holder of the Thomas E. Berry Endowed Chair in Integrated Water Research and Extension.

"People might be surprised at the depth and breadth of the division's water programming, everything from water quality and hydrology to plant breeding for drought tolerance and water-use efficiency," Engle said.

The center is key to division efforts for sustaining Oklahoma's agriculture water supply, which is crucial to the state's economy and the health and well-being of residents and the environment, said Robert E. Whitson, DASNR dean and director and OSU vice president of agricultural programs.

"Decisions made by Oklahoma producers, agricultural processors and value-added industries about their water use and management have never been more key than today, with demand for water increasing from multiple users and interest groups," he said. "DASNR has more investment in water research, education and public service than any other entity in the state."

Water issues in agriculture have been identified as high-priority areas of emphasis for all three aspects of the division, which is comprised of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and two statewide agencies: the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

"Of course, the ultimate goal of the center is to help Oklahomans make improved water-use decisions, provide a more dependable water supply and maintain or promote water quality," Engle said. "This is where the land-grant mission comes in, developing and providing science-based solutions to public concerns and issues."

The center is helping division scientists to more effectively conduct cutting-edge research on emerging water issues such as economics of water policy, land-use effects on water yield and effects of climate uncertainty on water resources, especially as they relate to agriculture and natural resource management.

"We're also trying to make it as easy as possible for division scientists to integrate their expertise," Engle said. "For example, developing best management practices that will be used by farmers and ranchers requires a process in which research and Extension must work together more closely than ever, all the while adjusting to the complexities of public decision making. Water is a very emotional issue for many people."

Then there is the next generation of scholars, leaders and scientists.

"Water will be an increasingly pressing issue for society, whether the specific issue is a matter of policy, conservation, hydrology or plant breeding and genetics," Engle said. "Oklahoma and the region need innovative, sustainable, and, most importantly, the right solutions when it comes to our water resources."

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