Olga Ilchuk

Photo of Olga Ilchuk, Extension

Olga Ilchuk

Research Program Manager


Cooperative Extension research and outreach programs

  • Evaluating Alternative Water Institution Performance: Are Food Production Systems at Risk from Changing Water Availability? (USDA-NIFA, $4.9m) in collaboration with Desert Research Institute, Colorado State University, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. https://packpages.unr.edu/snowcap/

This project aims to support food production in the intermountain west through a collaborative research framework integrating physical and economic models with stakeholder participation to evaluate outcomes of shifts in snowmelt-derived water supplies. Expected impacts include improved water management policy to support adaptation to changes in water available to agricultural users. The project will determine how changes in the timing of flows constrain agricultural producer decision-making and how water rights institutions can exacerbate or relieve these constraints. A collaborative research and outreach strategy identify and involve stakeholders directly in scientific inquiry and social learning processes. The project will produce a replicable framework that will enhance knowledge co-production and governance processes to result in water allocation outcomes that best represent the role and needs of agriculture and food production.

  • Water for Agriculture Challenge Area: Enhancing the Climate Resiliency of Native American Water and Land Resources (USDA-NIFA, $4.5m) in collaboration with Desert Research Institute, University of Arizona, Utah State University, and First Americans Land Grant Consortium. https://nativewaters-aridlands.com/

Enhancing the climate resiliency of agricultural water resources on reservation lands of the Great Basin and Southwestern US is threatened by the risk of prolonged drought and flash floods and projected declines in surface and groundwater supplies. Native American tribes on arid lands are especially vulnerable to climate change due to marginal soils, geographic isolation, and ongoing challenges to quantify agricultural water rights. Research and extension experts from 1862 and 1994 land grant institutions partner with tribal communities to assess the impacts of climate change on future water supplies, identify barriers and solutions, and evaluate and prioritize actions to enhance the climate resiliency of tribal agricultural water resources and food systems. A participatory research approach ensures that the local knowledge and perspectives of tribal communities remain at the forefront of the project, providing for social learning while protecting Native American cultural traditions and sensitive information. The project goals are to identify and address science information needs to support tribes in efforts to sustain or adopt innovative strategies to enhance the climate resilience of agricultural water resources and food systems as well as to support tribal college efforts to strengthen teaching, research, and outreach expertise on reservation lands.

  • Water Sustainability in Snow-Fed Arid Land River System: (NSF-USDA, $3.8m) in collaboration with Desert Research Institute and U.S. Geological Survey. http://waterfortheseasons.com/

Assessing and enhancing the climate resilience of snow-fed river dependent communities in the arid western United States has taken on critical importance in response to changing climatic conditions. Assessing climate resiliency involves understanding the extent to which snow-fed dependent communities can absorb climate induced variable water supplies while identifying viable adaptation strategies. Participatory research approaches, such as collaborative modeling, are well suited in this context because they are intended to draw upon local stakeholders' knowledge and their diverse, often competing, perspectives to inform science research. A key feature of this program is the collaborative modeling research design, engaging diverse water use communities to address complex public issues surrounding variable water supply, water policy, and climate adaptation.

  • Addressing Human Health Impacts from Emerging Contaminants in Reclaimed Water to Enhance its Use for Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture (USDA-NIFA, $499k)

The main goal of this project is to integrate research, education, and extension to identify, minimize, and mitigate human health impacts from emerging contaminants in reclaimed water, potentially enhancing its use for urban and peri-urban irrigated agriculture. The research team conducts basic research to: identify chemical contaminants in reclaimed water used for urban and peri-urban irrigated agriculture; determines pathways of contaminant entrainment into agricultural products; determines associated human health risks; and develop strategies for mitigation of those risks over the agricultural production chain, particularly focusing on reclaimed water production and point-of-use. Research results are used to enhance the decision-making capacity of: agricultural producers concerning the benefits and risks associated with reclaimed water use; water reclamation facility and water utility staff about the potential risks and mitigation needs and methods to improve suitability of reclaimed water for use in irrigated agricultural production; and affected stakeholder communities and policy makers about the feasibility and benefits/risks of using reclaimed water resources for irrigated agriculture.


lahontan dam cb

Calming the Waters: Learning to Manage Western Water Conflict

Conflict has surrounded the Truckee, Carson and Walker River Basins for decades. Key issues include historical use on tribal lands, historical and current water rights, threats to water quality, and wildlife habitat protection. This program teaches youth about Nevada’s water issues and helps them develop the skills needed to address future water conflicts.

Enhancing climate resilience on tribal lands

Native Waters on Arid Lands

Native Waters on Arid Lands is a five-year (2015-2020) project that partners researchers and extension experts with tribal communities in the Great Basin and American Southwest to collaboratively understand the impacts of climate change, and to evaluate adaptation options for sustaining water resources and agriculture.

slide mountain from washoe lake

SNOWPACS: Synthesizing kNowledge to Optimize Water Policy for Agriculture under Changing Snowpack

SNOWPACS is a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)-funded project on the impact of changes in mountain snowpack on agricultural production and water allocation institutions in the western United States.

lake tahoe

Water for the Seasons

Water for the Seasons (WftS) is a program that partners scientists with community water managers and water right holders in the Truckee-Carson River System (TCRS), to explore new strategies and solutions for dealing with extreme climate events such as droughts and floods.