Water Source at the Crossroads

Sep 29, 2013


Stretching from western Texas to South Dakota, the Ogallala Aquifer supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States. Underlying approximately 225,000 square miles of the Great Plains, water from the aquifer is vital to agricultural, municipal and industrial development. Approximately 30 percent of all groundwater used for irrigation in America is drawn from the Ogallala Aquifer.

Current use of groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer exceeds the amount of recharge through natural processes, leading to substantially decreased water levels in many areas of the aquifer. Additionally, intensive agricultural and industrial practices in some areas threaten the water quality of this important resource.

A recent study by Kansas State University found that if current irrigation trends continue, 69 percent of the groundwater stored in the High Plains Aquifer (the Ogallala Aquifer in Kansas) will be depleted in 50 years. But immediately reducing water use could extend the aquifer's lifetime and increase net agricultural production through the year 2110.


Using a comprehensive set of conservation practices, the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI) aims to reduce aquifer water use, improve water quality and enhance the economic viability of croplands and rangelands in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationists in OAI states collaborated with local conservation districts, state environmental agencies, land grant universities and NRCS State Technical Advisory Committees to complete inventories and determine high priority resource concerns within the OAI area.


Beginning in October Playa Country, a weekly radio show which discusses the wildlife, wetlands and prairies of the western Great Plains, and the people who manage them, will begin a five-part series on the NRCS Ogallala Aquifer Initiative. Each Tuesday, beginning October 1, a new Playa Country episode will be posted here on the HPPR website and can be heard on High Plains Public Radio at 6:44 pm central time.

  • Oct 1: Ogallala Aquifer Conservation
  • Oct 8: What Are Playas?
  • Oct 15: NRCS Ogallala Aquifer Initiative
  • Oct 22: Playas - Nebraska Landowner Story
  • Oct 29: KAWS Wetland Coordinator - Helping Landowners Conserve Playas