The USGS 104(b) grant program was initiated more than 50 years ago to support the symbiotic relationship between researchers and Oklahoma’s future water needs. This seed money helps introduce researchers to colleagues with similar goals, and their collaborative effort is designed with Oklahoma’s future in mind. One example is Justin Moss, from Oklahoma State University’s Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, who used the grant to understand how much Oklahomans know about water conservation and produce some conservation guides for beginners.

Justin Moss’ study titled “Water conservation in Oklahoma urban and suburban watersheds through modification of irrigation practices” was an investigation into the current conditions of water use in Oklahoma. With the expertise of Tracy Boyer, associate professor in OSU’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Moss examined outdoor water use in Oklahoma through conducting surveys focused on irrigation and conservation methods, determining recommended plants for the landscape, and delivering workshops to educate master gardeners about proper irrigation output.

“We wanted to understand how people were watering the landscape,” Moss said, “If they watered the lawn, what were their practices and what determined those practices?”

After gathering information on Oklahoman knowledge and water usage around homes, areas, and businesses, Moss and Boyer applied this data to inform the public through journal articles, a factsheet, and a new Extension website to teach homeowners about outdoor water conservation, http://thinkwater.okstate.edu.

ThinkWater is ideal for those interested in establishing a water-efficient landscape, providing information on design, soil improvement, efficient irrigation, turfgrass management, plant selection, mulch usage, and general maintenance.

“We made this website for people wanting to be more mindful in how they used water in the landscape and around their home,” Moss said.

Moss also used the initial grant to expand his programs to the most populated areas statewide. For example, he brought his findings and experience from the USGS 104(b) grant to Oklahoma City to inform their water conservation campaign.

“We are currently working with them to develop public information videos, advertisements, radio spots, and a website for the city at squeezeeverydrop.com. It is an overall campaign to give people a few simple ideas to save water around their home,” Moss said.

The websites for both ThinkWater and Oklahoma City’s Squeeze Every Drop were developed by Malarie Gotcher, one of Moss’ extension associates who began a success story of her own.

“She focused her time on educating Oklahoma City customers about water conservation, and did such a good job that the city created a water conservation position and hired her for it,” Moss said.

Students who worked on the initial USGS 104(b) grant all completed their Masters degrees and used their experience to start their careers; JoDee Schmidt, John Haase, and Courtney Keck graduated with degrees in Agricultural Economics, Environmental Science, and Horticulture, respectively.

With the help from the 104(b) grant, Moss was able to receive additional funding for larger projects.

“This first grant really helped initiate the work and partnerships necessary to be competitive and successful for larger grants from other funding agencies,” Moss said. “For example, we now have a United States Department of Agriculture grant working on water use issues with Texas A&M, the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, and North Carolina State University. It also contributed to our recent Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources grants on turfgrass drought resistance and responsible outdoor water use.”

Moving forward, Moss intends to continue exploring how people make water decisions in urban areas and providing methods to use water wisely. Moss hopes to “continue to work with educating this group of water customers and managers, and given the distribution of drought in our state, begin working in central to western Oklahoma.”

For more information about the USGS 104(b) grant, please visit the Oklahoma Water Resources Center’s 104(b) page. To learn more about saving water around your home and landscape, visit http://squeezeeverydrop.com and http://thinkwater.okstate.edu.