Author of 'The Ogallala Road' to speak on campus on state's water vision

Ogallala Book Cover

Author Julene Bair, who has been traveling Kansas commenting on the state's proposed 50-year water vision, will speak about her new novel, "The Ogallala Road," at noon Wednesday, Nov. 12, in Fort Hays State University's Forsyth Library.

She will discuss the state's Water Vision Plan and explain how the state, with the federal government, can bring about a soft, rather than a crash landing both for farmers and the Kansas economy.

In her book, Bair's father has recently died, leaving her part owner of a large family farm operation. The operation irrigates out of the Ogallala Aquifer, the vast groundwater reserve underlying the plains from South Dakota to Texas.

Bair wants to honor her father's wish for the farm to stay in the family, but she hates wasting the water that she grew up thinking of as precious, "the best in the world," on soybeans and corn. Government subsidies and ethanol policy encourage these crops, even though they are depleting the aquifer, she says.

Bair travels home to explore the watershed, worried that irrigation is causing creeks and rivers to run dry where Indians used to camp and pioneers first settled. While there, she meets Ward, a rancher from Kansas's beautiful Smoky Valley. As their relationship develops, he seems ready to step in and become the father that her son longs for. She hopes that he will also help her find a way to hang onto both her family's land and her principles.

Bair is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program. Her essay collection, "One Degree West," won regional awards and was a finalist for the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award. She has taught at the University of Wyoming and the University of Iowa.

Bair has written editorials on the Ogallala Aquifer, most notably in USA Today and The New York Times. She also appeared on National Public Radio. She now lives in Longmont, Colo.

For more information, visit and follow on Twitter Julene at @JuleneBair and

Bair's visit to campus is part of the American Democracy Project's Times Talk.

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