Ogallala Aquifer

Water- without it life ceases to exist. In the first of a four-part series, Professor David Guth takes a look at the struggle to find balance between water conservation and an economy based on water and agriculture.

Widespread agreement, no action yet on increasing overpumping penalties in Kansas.

Discussion was limited to four questions decided prior to the second regional water planning meeting in WaKeeney. Halting water declines at their current levels led one table’s discuss to the conclusion of “no irrigation and more education.” Water quality and nutrients steered to criticism of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the division of Water Resources for proposed regulations. Another group discussion asked the question, “How do you get people from broadly different backgrounds to come together, sit down, and discuss solutions?”

What Are Playas?

Feb 23, 2015

 We grew up on the High Plains thinking of those occasionally muddy pasture depressions as "buffalo wallows," "rainwater basins" or "mud holes." Turns out, scientists are learning those playas play a significant role recharging aquifers such as the Ogallala.

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.

k-state.edu

One thing that mixes into the Kansas water debate is where you live.  I have a neighbor from eastern Kansas who works hard to get things that grow wild in pastures of her childhood home to simply survive in her western Kansas flower bed. 

Tim Unruh / Salina Journal

Even though it’s 2014, for Jerry and Diane McReynolds they live like it’s the 1800s.  The McReynolds’ domestic well in Rooks County, Kansas, went dry in October 2013.   The couple are members of Rural Water District No. 3, but service is not reliable, especially during the day reported Tim Unruh for the Salina Journal.

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.

The Kansas economy relies on water and for more than a generation, experts have warned that western Kansas' economic resource is vanishing. The Hutchinson News and the Salina Journal are delving into the issues surrounding the declining Ogallala Aquifer and how it affects Kansas. Water: Past, present, and future begins today with a look at a water-centered economy.

kwo.org

The water plan for the state of Kansas was recently unveiled.  The goal is to ensure a reliable water supply for the future according to a recent article from the Washington Times.

nbcnews.com

If you ask Dale Artho about climate change, and the predictions scientists are making, he’ll say there’s no point in discussing the doomsday prophecies.  It’s already happened in Vega, Texas.  He can give you details. 

kgs.ku.edu

Water rights holders in Western Kansas counties recently rejected a plan to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer.  Groundwater Management District No. 1 board members asked its voting membership to approve a measure to that would cut irrigation use by 20 percent reported Amy Bickel for Kansas Agland.

commons.wikimedia.org

With the depletion of the Ogallala aquifer looming, a Haskell County family is testing Kansas water rights law.  First in time, first in right gives senior water rights priority over junior rights.  If the senior right is impaired, the owner of the junior right could be ordered to reduce irrigation from their well or even be shut down completely water reported Amy Bickel for Kansas Agland.

Water Basics 101

Apr 9, 2014
EPRI, 2014

Math helps us understand the causes of water shortages, how much water we’re wasting, as well as predict flooding.  The big picture can be seen when you grasp how much water is falling as rain or snow, moving into rivers or aquifers, and how much is being used in cities, industry and farms.  An explanation of the current water situation from the National Geographic can be found here.   

Kay Ledbetter / Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Over 300 participants attended the High Plains Dairy Conference in Lubbock, Texas.  Most of them were from Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado according to a University News release.

Phil Cauthon / Kansas Health Institute

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment approved the expansion of Seaboard Farms’ Ladder Creek hog farm according to a recent article from the Kansas Health Institute.

nwksgmd4.blogspot.com / USGS

The Ogallala Aquifer is life to the high plains.  The depletion of that resource moved Kansas State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, and West Texas A&M University to team up and work together to preserve the vital resource according to the High Plains Journal.  

Lori Potter / Kearney Hub

Jerry Stevens enrolled in the Rainwater-Basin Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program, which restores and protects wetlands in fields under production by allowing center pivots to cross the rainwater basins. It's win-win. The program protects a wetland, and allows the producer to farm the circle around it.

Kansas Ground Water Management

New legislation in Kansas makes it possible for producers to work within water conservation districts to create Locally Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) and agree among themselves how much groundwater use they can curtail. Brad Oelke talks about the first LEMA, which began in January 2013, and how NRCS may be able to help irrigators reduce consumption.

oklahomafarmreport.com

Realizing the vital importance of the Ogallala Aquifer to the High Plains, The Natural Resources Conservation Service launched the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative. Playa lakes recharge the aquifer, and because of that, NRCS provides ways, through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, for producers to rehabilitate playas in cropland. NRCS Conservationists can help landowners develop a conservation plan that meets their goals, using this and other USDA conservation programs.

Kevin Welch / amarillo.com

Life requires water. In Texas the surface water, owned by the state, is drying or dried up, and everyone from farmers to politicians are looking underground to make up the state’s growing water deficit according to the Texas Tribune.  

William C. Johnson

Duane Cheney, from the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, talks to landowners and operators in western Kansas about the benefits of enrolling playas in NRCS's Wetlands Reserve Program or Continuous CRP, thereby taking those "mudholes" out of production once and for all and converting them into wonderful wildlife habitat that also helps recharge the Ogallala aquifer. Doug Duell talks about his experience rehabbing a 40-acre playa on his western Kansas cropland.

Dave Hilfterty grows dryland winter wheat and irrigated corn in Perkins County, Nebraska. Dave had a challenge that was perfect for Wetlands Reserve Program assistance. Amongst his five irrigation circles there's a lagoon, which he got tired of trying to farm through.

Chris Helzer / The Nature Conservancy

Realizing the importance of the Ogallala Aquifer to High Plains states, NRCS created the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative to attempt to reduce the quantity of water removed from the aquifer, improve water quality using conservation practices, and enhance the economic viability of croplands and rangelands in the region. This episode explains how playas fit into these goals.

oklahomafarmreport.com

A significant report published by the National Academy of Sciences stresses the need to conserve groundwater. This episode focuses on two ways that is happening: 1) the USDA promotes Ogallala Aquifer conservation with NRCS money for cost-share projects, and 2) the state of Kansas changes water-rights laws to foster a culture of conservation rather than consumption.

Texas Groundwater: Money Won't Fix All the Problems

Aug 29, 2013
Texas Water Development Board

Lawmakers pushed this session for a statewide, comprehensive water plan.  That includes a proposition that would add $2 billion to the Texas Water Development Board’s portfolio for future water supply projects, if approved.  At the annual meeting of the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts, participants concluded money won’t fix many problems they face reported the Texas Tribune.    

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.

kansasagnetwork.com

Art Gomez of Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams discusses his job "selling" producers and landowners on permitting 30-year or permanent easements on wetlands such as playa lakes. Darryl Birkenfeld discusses his work as director of the Ogallala Commons at Nazareth, TX. The organization's mission is education and community support.

NASA images by Robert Simmon, using Landsat data from the USGS Global Visualization Viewer

Kansas' water-rights laws had encouraged consumption rather than conservation of Ogallala Aquifer groundwater used by irrigators in the western part of the state. Gov. Sam Brownback talks about his initiative to change laws in the 2012 legislative session to encourage conservation and self-regulation among ag producers. This story is part two of a four-part series on Ogallala aquifer conservation which originally aired on HPPR 01/22/13.

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