irrigation

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.

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.

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.