Water Quality, Water Law Headline Annual UNL Water Law, Policy and Science Conference

Water Quality, Water Law Headline Annual UNL Water Law, Policy and Science Conference

March 21, 2008

"Water Quality Challenges in the Great Plains" is the theme of this year's University of Nebraska-Lincoln Water, Law, Policy and Science Conference.

The fifth annual UNL conference is April 22-23 at Lincoln's Embassy Suites."Our day-to-day preoccupation with water quantity, which intensified with our recent drought and ongoing interstate water compact negotiations, has often overshadowed water quality issues that all of us in the Great Plains need to be concerned with in order to protect our way of life," said Kyle Hoagland, UNL Water Center director.

"The theme of this year's conference is designed to refocus attention on water quality issues by continuing a tradition of attracting national water and law experts to address state and regional water challenges that impact all of us," he said.

The conference will address integrated approaches to water quality improvement, economics of water quality, agriculture and biofuels issues, ecology and culture of water quality, challenges to water quality from agricultural pesticides and other potential contaminants, and northern plains groundwater quality.

A second-day law track specially designed for attorneys and professionals new to water law and others needing a better understanding of water law issues will address the basics of surface and groundwater, water law, water management, the roles and goals of water engineers, water speculation and other topics.

Lincoln attorney Tom Wilmoth will talk about how federal environmental laws impact water management, and Holdrege attorney Mike Klein will address impacts of water transfers on property titles and taxes. Key speakers on the conference's first day include G. Tracy Mehan III, former assistant administrator for water for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on integrated watershed approaches for the 21st century; and former Wall Street Journal environment editor Frank Allen on journalism's duty in reporting on water issues.

Other notable speakers include Bruce Babbitt, former Arizona governor and former U.S. secretary of the interior under President Bill Clinton; Vicki Colvin of Rice University, on nanotechnology in the environment; and Tufts University's Frank Ackerman, who will question the economic benefits of the farm pesticide atrazine.

Many UNL water faculty will also speak at the event.

"We are expecting a lively discussion from a panel composed of Nebraska water sages," said UNL Water Center assistant director Lorrie Benson. Panelists are longtime UNL environmental studies professor Bob Kuzelka, Prairie Fire newspaper publisher W. Don Nelson, former UNL Water Center director Warren Viessman, Steve Oltmans of Olsson Associates and consultant Dennis Grams, former EPA administrator.

A broad menu of conference registration options and brief summaries of each talk are available online at http://watercenter.unl.edu/WaterConference/. Participants can choose the portions of the conference and associated meals they wish to attend, Benson said. Registration fees increase after the April 7 preregistration deadline. Students can attend the conference free, but need to register for meals. Registration is online at the above address. For help with the registration process, contact Jackie Loomis at UNL's School of Natural Resources, (402) 472-7550 or e-mail jloomis3@unl.edu. Conference room rates are available at the Embassy Suites through March 31. Phone (402) 474-1111 for reservations or information. Conference cosponsors are the University's Office of Research, Water Resources Research Initiative, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Water Center, School of Natural Resources and College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Steven Ress
Communications Coordinator, UNL Water Center