irrigation

To conclude our three-part series on how gardeners new to our region can overcome reduced water access, today's installment of Growing on the High Plains goes underground -- literally. 

In addition to thoughtful xeriscaping and maximizing moisture with mulch, those committed to making water conservation a top priority can consider planning and installing a drip system.  With the flip of a switch, you can ensure that every drop goes  where it's needed -- saving time and energy.

Waste Not. Want Not

Apr 10, 2017
CREATIVE COMMONS

Welcome to High Plains Radio Readers Book club, an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of Water and Replenishment in our Book Club Series. Rediscovering an epic science fiction title, Dune, written in 1965 by Frank Herbert.

Can Technology Help the Ogallala?

Mar 13, 2017
Kansas Geological Survey

Technology made it possible to develop the Ogallala aquifer and turn the High Plains region into the nation’s breadbasket. William Ashworth describes this transition in Ogallala Blue, the High Plains Public Radio community read.  Intense pumping, though, has caused many areas to have large groundwater declines.  Can technology also provide a way to extend and conserve the aquifer into the future?

That is certainly a possibility.  The state water plans for Texas, Kansas and Colorado all propose meeting future water needs, in part, by implementing technology to conserve water today.

The Ogallala Aquifer

Feb 27, 2017
Janet Huelskamp - Fowler, KS

Ogallala Blue: Water and Life on the High Plains, by William Ashworth, is a High Plains Public Radio community read.  The book chronicles the development, management and possible fate of the Ogallala, the largest aquifer within the High Plains aquifer system.  At its essence, the book is about the people and the place that rely on the aquifer. I am Susan Stover with the Kansas Geological Survey, University of Kansas.   

The High Plains aquifer stretches from South Dakota to Texas and New Mexico. It supplies the water for nearly a third of our nation’s irrigated crops and has transformed the region into some of the nation’s most productive acreage with fields upon fields of corn, alfalfa, soybeans, wheat, sorghum and cotton.  The aquifer also supports the cattle, dairy and hog industries, meatpacking and milk processing plants, ethanol production, and communities.  It is a vibrant economy, one that runs on water.

Kansas Geological Survey

Thanks to timely rains last year, Mount Hope-area farmer Jeff Winter figures on some of his fields he pumped half the amount of water that he normally uses to irrigate his crops.

So did many central Kansas farmers. And it showed. 

While the Ogallala Aquifer continues to decline, the Equus Beds and Great Bend Prairie aquifers saw rises as irrigators shut down their wells more often in 2016.

"We didn't have to pump as much, and we shut off more frequently," said Winter, who also is on the Equus Beds board. He added that on a few fields, he pumped even less.

Is This a True Story?

Feb 10, 2017
Kathleen Holt / Kansas State Historical Society

Hello, Radio Readers!  We’re talking about John Nichols’ Milagro Beanfield War as the first book in our 2017 Spring Read, Water and Replenishment.  Set in New Mexico, the novel explores the conflict between communities of haves and of have nots, who, in this story, are divided by access to water and water use.  On one side, are those who want a dam to create a lake for fishing and boating and to stimulate a business economy; on the other side are subsistence farmers who need water for irrigation.

You all may already know this, but I had to do some Googling through various sources, so bear with me here.  First of all, I hadn’t known that irrigation in New Mexico dates back to the days of Pueblo Indian farming, which makes irrigation an ancient custom, right? It’s just that traditional Hispano irrigation depended on river-fed ditches.  Farmers used shovels to divert water from one ditch to another and from ditches to fields.  Beginning in the early twentieth century,  many New Mexicans advocated for engineered solutions for irrigation, specifically large concrete dams and levees and canals.   While such water management systems are more efficient, they’re also quite expensive to construct and maintain. Conservancy, or taxing districts, were developed.  Historically, in New Mexico, many subsistence farmers, unable to afford the taxes, lost land owned by their families for generations or forfeited their rights to water access.

Desert Places and Desert People

Feb 8, 2017

Welcome to High Plains Public Radio Readers Book Club, an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of common interest to those who live and work on the High Plains.  We’re talking about John Nichols’ Milagro Beanfield War, the first book in our 2017 Spring Read, Water and Replenishment

Published in the early 1970’s, the novel has since become a kind of cult classic, one revered by readers who enjoy a certain level of gritty realism, comedy, triumphs over greed and indifferent bureaucrats, and random gun fire here and there. Hmmm….sounds like fun, right?

agweb.com

Ag research has done a lot for the High Plains, but it’s not getting the recognition it deserves, according to a senior irrigation engineer at Texas A&M University. Thomas Marek says today’s irrigated agriculture is capable of producing 40 percent more grain with 90 percent less energy and 60 percent less water than in the past, reports agjournalonline.com.

Technology Boom in Colorado

Mar 31, 2015
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media/KUNC

Colorado is leading the nation with innovation, in recent years Boulder and Denver have become as home to tech startup companies in an unlikely industry. Agriculture is where the money’s at in Colorado these days; growers are patenting new technology in irrigation, food science and plant genetics according to a report from NPR correspondent Luke Runyoon.

Water woes don't grip all of Kansas

Mar 19, 2015
kansasagnetwork.com

The declining Ogallala aquifer is front and center in the state of Kansas.  But one south-central farmer wants to make it clear that water woes don’t grip the whole state reports Kansas Agland.

John Janssen is a farmer in Kinsley.  He’s also a board member of Big Bend Groundwater Management District No. 5.  He says not to throw the whole state in with the Ogallala. 

Kansas said Nebraska used more than its fair share of water out of the Republican River in 2005 and 2006. The Supreme Court agreed, and ordered Nebraska to pay up.

Get the facts about the Ogallala Aquifer

Jul 31, 2014
usgs.org

This is the last installment of the water series.  Amy Bickel covered facts about the Ogallala Aquifer in a story published by Kansas Agland.

A history lesson in irrigation

Jul 27, 2014
knrc.ws

Everyone knew the open, treeless High Plains wasn’t a place to put down roots.  Making a home, farming, and development takes water, and in Western Kansas it’s arid and rainfall is in short supply.  Enter the grand idea of irrigation.

Water is the cornerstone of SW Kansas economy

Jul 25, 2014
nasa.gov

The ag world is gearing up to feed 9 billion people, but the Ogallala Aquifer sprawling under the surface of eight Midwestern states is going down the drain.  In fact, in some places, it’s gone reported Amy Bickel for Kansas Agland.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When September’s flood waters came down from the Front Range foothills, they destroyed homes and wrecked office parks. The water ruined roads, bridges and highways. The floods destroyed farms and crops, and unleashed tremendous pressure on aging irrigation infrastructure, some of which dated back to the late 1800s.

In 1960 just 3 percent of the Ogallala aquifer under Western Kansas had been tapped.  By 2010 it was 30 percent.  By 2060 it will be 69 percent.  And once depleted, it will take 500-1,300 years to completely refill.  These projections are all from a recently issued, comprehensive, four year study from Kansas State University. 

Doing More With Less Water

Aug 20, 2013
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The future of agriculture across the Great Plains hinges on water. Without it, nothing can grow.

Climate models and population growth paint a pretty bleak picture for water availability a few decades from now. If farmers want to stay in business, they have to figure out how to do more with less. Enter: super efficient irrigation systems.

The 1996 farm bill authorized an incentive program to help farmers buy more efficient irrigation equipment to save water. An estimated $4.2 billion in conservation subsidy payments have been made since 1997 and the program is under scrutiny in the current debate over a new five-year farm bill. And questions are being raised over whether the water conservation promoted by the program has actually led to more overall water use.

Growing urban areas adjoining the High Plains are becoming major customers for the region's water. What was once considered a production input is now the final harvest in southeast Colorado.