Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ogallala Aquifer Continues to Decline, Putting Rural Areas at Risk in the Heartland

Eight states in the central U.S. are dealing with the beginnings of a crisis as streams dry up, causing fish to vanish and farmers to worry about their future livelihood. For decades, water levels in the Ogallala aquifer have been in decline. Irrigators are to blame, pumping out the groundwater faster than the rain can refill it. But over the past six years, water levels have declined twice as fast as the previous 60, according to the Denver Post, which analyzed federal data to create their report. The drawdown has become so severe that streams are drying at a rate of 6 miles per year and some highly resilient fish are disappearing. In rural areas, farmers and ranchers worry they will no longer have enough water for their livestock and crops as the aquifer is depleted. The aquifer lost 10.7 million acre-feet of storage between 2013 and 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a June report. "Now I never know, from one minute to the next, when I turn on a faucet or hydrant, whether there will be water or not," said Lois Scott, 75, who lives west of Cope, Colorado, north of the frequently bone-dry bed of the Arikaree River. A 40-foot well her grandfather dug by hand in 1914 gave water until recently, she said, lamenting the loss of lawns where children once frolicked and green pastures for cows. Scott's now considering a move to Brush, Colorado, and leaving her family's historic homestead farm. "This will truly become the Great American Desert," she said. Also known as the High Plains Aquifer, the Ogallala underlies 175,000 square miles (453,000 square kilometers), including parts of Colorado, Wyoming Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. That's one of the primary agricultural regions of the U.S., producing $35 billion in crops annually...more

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agriculture is being blamed for the reduction of the Ogalala. But how many cities which sponsor unlimited growth have their straws in the Ogalala? We have seen the result of this unlimited expansion in the city of Las Vegas and the resulting draw-down of Lake Mead. The same is being dealt to the Ogalala. Yes, the farmers are double cropping which certainly expedites the aquifer's draw-down, but without this extra effort at farming productivity more farmers would go our of business.
Just remember when you start criticizing farmers for using water, every time you sit down to eat a farmer or rancher produced that meal. What have you produced every time you watered your lawn, flushed your toilet, turned on your dishwasher, washed your car, admired the city parks water fountain, or took your kids to the "waterpark"?