Aquamart: Positioning agriculture as a leader in water management
Agriculture is the largest user of water not only in Nebraska, but around the globe. However, there are other stakeholders such as municipalities, recreation, wildlife, and business and industry that need a reliable supply of abundant, high quality water.
Encouraging collaboration among all water users—and positioning farmers as leaders in water stewardship—is the impetus behind Aquamart, an initiative of the Nebraska Water Balance Alliance.
Aquamart, supported in part by the Nebraska Corn Board, is a catalyst for farmer-led, field-level statewide water conservation. Aquamart leverages grassroots networking, precision technologies and best practices to create a blueprint for individual farmers to follow as they continually strive to improve their management of water.
Heaston who leads the Aquamart effort said, “At the same time, we want to demonstrate to other stakeholders that ag producers can be leaders in water management.”
Farmers participate in Aquamart voluntarily. Currently, Aquamart has a number of projects in the Nebraska Panhandle to help farmers gather and use data to enhance water quality, reduce water consumption and improve irrigation timing. Heaston said Aquamart takes a holistic approach to water management in Nebraska, knowing that water issues affect everyone in the state.
“The City of Lincoln grows a crop of humans every year on about 8 inches of water. If you flooded Memorial Stadium up to the press box—and multiplied that by about 50—that would equate to Lincoln’s annual water usage,” Heaston said. “That same amount of water would grow about 10 square miles of corn. That’s how much bigger agricultural water use is in Nebraska—and that’s why it’s important to give farmers the tools they need to continually improve efficiency and stewardship.”
Information-sharing is a significant cornerstone of Aquamart. “We’re building peer learning networks for farmers so they can share information and talk with each other about what works and what doesn’t,” Heaston said. “This isn’t simply about getting new toys for farmers. It’s about figuring out a way to maximize the benefit of our state’s most abundant resource—water.”
John Heaston (right in blue shirt) leads a workshop with farmers participating in the Aquamart initiative.