Auburn is one of four research universities in the southeast receiving a $5 million grant for a project to preserve the Upper Floridian Aquifer.
The aquifer, an underground layer of rock that moves water around for use, runs through Florida, Georgia and Alabama. It leads into 300 springs and 590 miles of rivers in the Flint and Suwanee basins, and over 10 million people rely on it for clean drinking water, according to Dr. Wendy Graham of the UF Water Institute.
Dr. Puneet Srivastava, professor of ecological engineering at Auburn, said that the aquifer is not being treated in a sustainable way.
“There is a lot of water withdrawal that has happened in the last 25-30 years … the way the aquifer is being handled is not sustainable,” Srivastava said. “We are looking at how farmers can change their practices and how they can better use the water that is available to them so that they have minimum impact on the aquifer.”
The project, titled “Agricultural Water Security through Sustainable Use of the Floridan Aquifer” is being worked on by 14 faculty members from the University of Florida, University of Georgia, Albany State University and Auburn University. The objectives of the team, according to Graham, are to build modeling platforms detailing the impacts of alternative land use and production practices and to develop and deliver demonstrations for stakeholders to bring about changes in production systems and incentive programs.
According to Srivastava, Auburn’s team of himself, Latif Kalin and Ph.D. student Ritesh Karki will be creating models of surface and ground water in the Georgia portion of the aquifer for use by farmers and stakeholders.
“We will be looking at the Georgia portion to make sure that we are efficiently utilizing irrigated water to grow the crops, only irrigating as much as needed, no more, drawing the water efficiently, and then also quantifying the impact of irrigated water withdraws,” Srivastava said.
Srivastava said he has been working on issues related to the aquifer for at least 8 years now and wrote the proposal for the USDA which received funding after only a few drafts. Out of 66 proposals, Srivastava’s ranked number one and was one of four that received funding.