Irrigation Demonstration at water technology days

Extending the usable lifetime of the High Plains Aquifer through hands-on education, community conversations and more

Susan Metzger is no stranger to the complex issues underlying efforts in Kansas to create sustainable solutions for water management. In a state where rainfall can differ as much as 30 annual inches from east to west, and the main irrigation source for much of the state is rapidly depleting, it’s imperative to integrate current science with forward-thinking water management strategies.

As the new Associate Director for Agriculture and Extension and Director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and Environment (KCARE) at Kansas State University, Metzger’s role will be just that: creating and facilitating strategic partnerships between experienced university scientists and stakeholders from the public and private sectors with the goal of creating long-term solutions for the sustainability of Kansas waters.

“KCARE has a well-established track record of research and on-the-ground practices to address natural resource concerns. I look forward to building on that foundation to expand our partnerships and enhance the visibility of the Center,” said Metzger.

A precision mobile drip irrigation (PMDI) is one technology used to conserve water at one of KCARE’s on-farm partnerships.
Photo courtesy of KCARE/Flickner Innovation Farm

One big focus for her will be the Ogallala Aquifer, the primary water supply source for western Kansas. Metzger is already at work on a combination of initiatives designed to extend the life of this imperiled natural resource, which forms part of the High Plains Aquifer – the largest freshwater aquifer in the world.

Metzger says her first goal is to expand the reach of two successful programs: the Master Irrigator program and Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS). Both use research-based, hands-on courses to put water-conserving innovations directly into the hands of producers. The Master Irrigator program provides intensive training on the newest and best water conservation tools and strategies. TAPS is a real-life farm competition that invites producers, scientists, and industry to identify improvements and innovations that improve profitability and input-use efficiency. Metzger is working with several universities including Colorado State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to create multi-state networks of both initiatives.

Metzger is also on a team working to create structured supply chain community conversations about water conservation and sustainability. This idea began with a group of irrigators, feedyard owners, and a processing plant in Finney County, Kansas. These stakeholders came together to discuss short- and long-term strategies to extend their regional water supply, and Metzger hopes to develop their idea and expand it to other communities in Kansas and beyond.

“These supply chain community conversations aim to invite people to the table and, together, create shared action to conserve local water resources,” she explained. “It is clear that conserving and extending the usable lifetime of the High Plains Aquifer will require the long-term, collective commitment of a diverse group of water users.”

Dr. Susan Metzger, Kansas State University

Susan Metzger HeadshotDr. Susan Metzger is the Associate Director for Agriculture and Extension and Director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment (KCARE) at Kansas State University. Before her work at K-State, she was the Deputy/Assistant Secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, where she served the farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses of Kansas and assisted in the development and delivery of tools to grow the state’s agricultural economy. Prior to that, she was the Chief of Planning and Policy for the Kansas Water Office, where she was the team leader in the development and implementation of the Long-Term Vision for the Future of Water Supply in Kansas. Dr. Metzger received her B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, was awarded a master’s degree in Biological Sciences from Old Dominion University, and received her Ph.D. in Leadership Communication from Kansas State University.


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