Stewarding Our Water Future Conference

Date & Time

Thursday & Friday
March 21 & 22, 2024
9:00 am – 4:00 pm


Harrington Center for Philanthropy
Amarillo Area Foundation
919 South Polk Street Amarillo, TX

Our region will continue to experience more frequent droughts and torrential rains. Much more could be done to increase water infiltration in the soils of our agricultural lands and to improve water retention in our cityscapes. These actions would fortify the region against upcoming droughts, and lead to more widespread water storage and aquifer recharge–as we transition away from practices that rapidly deplete our groundwater. Above all, we need more people taking concrete actions to regenerate our degraded water cycle in ways that respect the limits of our semi-arid environment.

The purpose of this conference is: 1) to shift the public conversation about groundwater depletion toward a more hopeful narrative built on a wide range of innovative solutions, and 2) to expand the stakeholder coalition focused on improving the water realities we live with and leave for future generations.


Thursday, March 21st


Doors Open: Registration & Exhibit Viewing


The Crossing: An Opening Reflection
Darryl Birkenfeld, Ph.D., OC Deputy Director, Nazareth, TX
Claudia Stuart, poet & author, Amarillo, TX
Avery Bonnette, School of Art, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX
Mike & Kristi Fuller, singer-songwriters, Amarillo, TX


 “How the Past and Present Shape Future Conservation”
Manuel T. De Leon, State Wildlife Biologist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tahoka, TX

“Migrating to the Ogallala: Using Historical Analysis to Imagine New Hydrologic Cycles”
(Zoom Presentation)
Sam Hege, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate, Agrarian Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT


Break & Exhibits


“Working Like Beavers: Spring and Stream Restoration”
Stephen Bennett, Principal & Co-Founder, Anabranch Solutions, Logan Utah


Catered Lunch and Exhibit Viewing


“Playas: Keystone Ecosystems of the Southern High Plains”
(Zoom Presentation)
David Haukos, Ph.D., Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

“Tomorrow’s Water: Restoring the Water Cycle for Communities”
Mike Carter, Director, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Lafayette, CO

“Recharging the Ogallala & Living Within a Water Budget”
Dr. Christopher Grotegut, Tierra de Esperanza, Hereford, TX

“Let Nature Do the Work—Restoring Soil Biology”
Chad Wall, Natural Ecosystem Restoration, Wolfforth, TX

“Managing Small Acreages with Grass & Grazing”
Marie Nava, Rancho Alma Linda, Tucumcari, NM


Break & Exhibit Viewing


Bus Tours (board the bus designated for the Tour you registered for):
Tour #1: Grasslands and Playas at Tierra de Esperanza near Dawn, TX
Tour #2: Stream Restoration at Wildcat Bluff Nature Center (Amarillo)
Tour #3: Streetscape Water Harvesting, City of Amarillo Water Treatment Plant, and East Amarillo Creek


Buses Return to Harrington Center



Friday, March 22nd


Doors Open: Registration & Exhibit Viewing


“Stewarding Wonder: Our Lives Are Rivers, and Aquifers Too”
Dr. Shelley Armitage, author and poet, Las Cruces, NM


“Utilizing the Run-Off: Shifting to a “Hydro-Local” Approach”
(Zoom Presentation)
Catlow Shipek, Sr. Program Director, Watershed Management Group, Tucson, AZ


Break & Exhibit Viewing


“A Community Vision for Preserving the Ogallala Aquifer”
Dr. Ladona K. Clayton, Ogallala Land & Water Conservancy, Clovis, NM

“New Water Capture in Regional Water Planning”
Paula Jo Lemonds, HDR Engineering, Austin, TX


Catered Lunch and Exhibit Viewing


“Practices to Move from Water Scarcity to Water Abundance”
(Zoom Presentation)
Andrew Millison, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR


“Avenues for Public Awareness & Continuing Education”
Janet Guthrie, North Plains Water Conservation District, Dumas, TX
John Beusterien, Spanish & Comparative Literature, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX
Berlin Arellano, Ogallala Commons, Tucumcari, NM
Masoumeh Ozmaeian, Ph.D., Department of Engineering and Computer Science, West Texas A&M University, Canyon, TX




Networking & Action Planning: Small Group Discussion


Feed Back from Small Groups


Next Steps & Wrap Up




Presenter bios:

(in order of appearance at the conference)

Darryl Birkenfeld, Ph.D.

After serving as Executive Director of Ogallala Commons for twenty years, Darryl is currently OC Deputy Director and Stewarding Natural Resources Program Coordinator. He lives in Nazareth, TX with his wife Joann.

Claudia Stuart

Claudia is an award-winning poet, writer, and author. She is Professor Emeritus from West Texas A&M University in the fields of Sociology and Criminal Justice.

Avery Bonnette

Avery is an undergraduate student in the School of Art at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX.

Mike and Kristy Fuller

Mike and Kristy have been a part of the Amarillo, TX music scene for the last 30 years. Mike is also the host of “What the Folk” on High Plains Public Radio.

Manuel De Leon

“How Our Past, Present, and Future Shapes Conservation”

Working in the conservation field for over 30 years, Manuel is currently the Texas NRCS State Wildlife Biologist based out of Temple, TX, and previously served as the Zone 1 Wildlife Biologist out of Lubbock, Resource Team Leader in Pampa, and District Conservationist in Muleshoe. He has also served as a wildlife biologist, federal game warden, and wildland firefighter with the National Wildlife Refuge System in various states across the U.S. and grew up in Lynn County in the southern High Plains.

Sam Hege

“Migrating to the Ogallala: Using Historical Analysis to Imagine New Hydrologic Cycles”

Sam Hege is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University. He received his Ph.D. in History from Rutgers University-New Brunswick (NJ), and his research broadly examines the history of the Ogallala Aquifer as a source of profit, migration, work, and activism.

Stephen Bennett, Ph.D.

“Working Like Beavers: Spring and Stream Restoration”

Stephen Bennett is a fish and wildlife biologist with a wide range of experience in river, forestry, wildlife, and fisheries science. He has been the project manager of numerous watershed assessments and restoration planning projects across the western US, applying low-tech restoration approaches in a wide variety of settings.

David Haukos, Ph.D.

“Keystone Ecosystems of the Southern High Plains”

David is currently the Unit Leader of the Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Kansas State University. Previously, he was the Regional Migratory Management Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. David developed a deep appreciation and strong connection with playa wetlands during nearly three decades of researching, managing, and educating others on playas in the Southern High Plains of Texas and New Mexico.

Mike Carter

“Tomorrow’s Water: Restoring the Water Cycle for Communities”

Mike is continually looking at big picture solutions, whether that involves expanding bird priorities, keeping native grasslands, or working with farmers to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer. He believes people play a key role in bird conservation and has been viewing playa conservation through that lens since he became the Playa Lakes Joint Venture Coordinator in 2001. After returning from the Peace Corps in 1988, Mike founded the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (now Bird Conservancy of the Rockies) and continued working as executive director for 14 years.

Dr. Christopher Grotegut

“Recharging the Ogallala & Living Within a Water Budget”

Chris is a first-generation son of German immigrants, living in Deaf Smith County, TX, where he, his wife, two sons, and farm manager Eugenio Porres have been transitioning an 11,000-acre irrigated farm to native perennial grasslands since 2013. The Grotegut family also owns and operates a veterinary clinic in Hereford, TX.

Chad Wall

“Restoring Soil Biology—Let Nature Do the Work”

Chad lives and works with his family on a small diverse farm in southeast Lubbock County, TX. He founded a company, Natural Ecosystem Restoration, to oer organic and conventional ag producers both consulting and tools to re-energize the soil food web across their farms and pastures.

Marie Nava

“Grazing & Grass on Small Acreages”

Marie is a concerned earth citizen in addition to being a mother, grandmother, homeschool mom, land steward, and a perpetual learner who usually bites o more than she can chew. Besides working three part-time jobs, she and her family manage their 60-acre Rancho Alma Linda in Tucumcari, NM.

Shelley Armitage

"Stewarding Wonder: Our Lives Are Rivers, and Aquifers Too"

Shelley is professor emerita from the University of Texas at El Paso. Her most recent books are Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place and A Habit of Landscape. She manages the family grasslands near Vega, TX.

Catlow Shipek

Catlow has a MSc in Watershed Management from the University of Arizona and over 15 years of experience in applied watershed management and planning and policy specializing in urban applications like water harvesting, green infrastructure, stream restoration, and eco-sanitation. Catlow serves as the co-lead of the Santa Cruz Watershed Collaborative and has served on the Citizens’ Water Advisory Committee for Tucson Water including Chair of the Conservation & Education subcommittee, Tucson's Complete Streets Coordinating Council, and on the University of Arizona's School of Natural Resource and the Environment's Advisory Board.

Dr. Ladona K. Clayton

“A Community Vision for Preserving the Ogallala Aquifer”

A native New Mexican, Ladona began her work in water resilience as a City Commissioner in 2016 and now leads the Ogallala Land & Water Conservancy, where she partners with voluntary landowners and key entities to secure and protect groundwater through an innovative approach.

Paula Jo Lemonds

“New Water Capture in Regional Water Planning”

Paula Jo has over 20 years of experience as a professional geologist and engineer for HDR and serves as the technical consultant project manager for the Llano Estacado Regional Water Planning Group and the Upper Colorado Regional Flood Planning Group. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in geology from Texas A&M University and her Master of Science in Geological Engineering from Colorado School of Mines.

Andrew Millison

“Practices to Move from Water Scarcity to Water Abundance”

Andrew is the founder of Oregon State University’s Permaculture Design program, where he introduced a revolutionary ecological design system into the mainstream university establishment, educating tens of thousands of students. His popular YouTube channel boasts hundreds of thousands of subscribers with tens of millions of views, where he documents the most impactful ecological projects on Earth and presents them in both an artistic and technical manner.

Janet Guthrie

Janet has recently been named the general manager of the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District that extends over 7,335 square miles in the northern Texas Panhandle encompassing all of Dallam, Hansford, Lipscomb, Ochiltree, and Sherman Counties, as well as parts of Hartley, Hutchinson, and Moore Counties. The District is located north of Amarillo and north of the Canadian River. Janet previously served 22 years as the general manager of the Hemphill County Underground Water Conservation District and 17 years in the banking industry. She was born and raised in the Texas Panhandle and has a passion for water, conservation, and agriculture.

John Beusterien, Ph.D.

John, professor of Spanish at Texas Tech University, is currently completing a book project titled, “Water on the Llano Estacado.” His article "The Thirsty Llano Estacado: The Manuel Maés Ballad Corpus” won the Don D. Walker Prize for best essay on the literature and culture of the North American West.

Berlin Arellano

Berlin is a Regional Coordinator for Ogallala Commons, and a small farmer in Tucumcari, NM. She is designing a self-paced online Playa Management Certificate as well as an Ogallala Aquifer Certificate.

Masouhmeh Ozmaeian

Mona is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at West Texas A&M University. Her research focuses on theoretical material science at the nanoscale. She is also involved in a USDA-funded project to design interactive STEM activities for K-12 students, aimed at educating about the water crisis.

Sponsorship Info

Stewarding Our Water Future Conference Sponsors

Major Sponsor:

Keystone Level - $5,000

Jim & Barbara Whitton

Recharger Level - $2,500

Perennial Level - $1,000