High Plains Public Radio

Ogallala Aquifer

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In western Kansas, meanwhile, a farmer and local officials were recently honored for their efforts to preserve water.

A Finney County farmer and the City of Garden City were recognized earlier this month at the Governor’s Water Conference in Manhattan for taking measures to conserve, reuse or adopt practices aimed at preserving the state’s future water resources.

Has either of the two presidential candidates said anything about the Ogallala Aquifer?

As part of its ongoing ag reporting, Harvest Public Media reporters examine questions from readers and this is one of them.

We weren’t able to find any cases where the candidates specifically address the Ogallala Aquifer, but each has each spoken to sustainable water use - mostly with an eye to the West. (Neither the Clinton nor the Trump campaigns responded to a request for comment.)

KHI news service

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Gov. Sam Brownback’s office announced Tuesday he has signed into law a bill allowing the executive branch to suspend indefinitely the water rights of Kansans who fail to file annual water use reports.

Tiffany Stecker / eenews.net

It took 10 million years for the Ogallala Aquifer to fill with water. Now, says a report on eenews.net, after just over a century of pumping and irrigation, a third of the Ogallala is gone, and its future is in grave danger. The Ogallala supplies water to almost 20 percent of the nation's wheat and cotton crops and cattle. But in Haskell County, in the southwest corner of Kansas, water levels have dropped 150 feet since 1950. And that’s just one of many bleak examples.

www.nebraskaeducationonlocation.org

Some interesting facts about the Ogallala Aquifer came to light at the Panhandle-South Plains Water Conservation Symposium in Amarillo last week, reports Amarillo.com. For example, if the water currently in storage in the aquifer only covered the area of a football field, the water would stretch a quarter of the way to the moon.

Texas Tribune

A recent case in Texas pitted landowners against government officials in charge of the Central Texas reservoir known as the Edwards Aquifer. A jury is expected to announce damages soon, reports member station KUT. The case could have repercussions for High Plains landowners by showing how Texas water will be regulated in in the future.

What Is a Playa?

Feb 23, 2016

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.

‘Water’ the chances for one individual?

Feb 11, 2016
Kansas Geological Survey

From Agland:

While probably the majority of the people in western Kansas would like to conserve our irrigation water supplies, can one man go it alone?

Almost 40 years ago, I was sitting in the office of Extension ag economist Don Pretzer in Waters Hall on the campus of Kansas State University talking about ways to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer in western Kansas. And he made a very good observation.

mcdarius / Flickr Creative Commons

Beginning early next month Kansas Geological Survey crews will begin studying almost 600 Kansas wells. The research is part of an effort to measure changes in groundwater levels, reports KAKE.

Ogallala Resources Continue to Dwindle

Dec 27, 2015
Steve Elfers / USA TODAY

Time is running out for portions of the Ogallala Aquifer, which lies beneath eight states from South Dakota to Texas, reports NBC affiliate KING 5. The Ogallala makes possible about one-fifth of the country’s output of corn, wheat and cattle. But its levels have been rapidly declining, and with each passing year more wells are going dry.

www.gctelegram.com

Irrigation is no longer an option in Kansas’s smallest county, reports the Baldwin City Signal. After decades of overuse, the water source beneath Greeley County’s arid prairie has been sucked dry. Five years ago, county residents voted to allow a massive corporate hog-feeding operation to move in, thinking hogs use less water than crops.

USDA Continues to Invest in Ogallala Relief

Nov 16, 2015
ne.water.usgs.gov

The US Department of Agriculture will invest $8 million next year toward helping farmers and ranchers conserve water from the Ogallala Aquifer, while still maintaining and strengthening agricultural operations, reports Agri-Pulse.

Creative Commons

From Kansas Agland's "Watchdog":

The Kansas Department of Agriculture is considering increasing fines for people ignoring the state’s mandate to report annually the volume of water they pump from wells or for exceeding limits on water use.

That’s a no-brainer. An even better stick would be to revoke their water rights altogether.

Brownback Works to Preserve Ogallala

Sep 4, 2015
cstoddard / Flickr Creative Commons

Plentiful rains will not be enough to replenish the Ogallala Aquifer, notes the Hays Daily News. Last week, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback paid a visit to southwest Kansas, touring the bountiful fields there. But he stressed that the recent rains are insufficient to solve the crisis.

ewan_the_moomintroll / Flickr Creative Commons

America is losing groundwater at unsustainable rates. Although groundwater loss is underreported and poorly documented, it’s becoming a serious global problem, notes Beef Magazine.

Amber Waves of Change: High & Dry (Part 1)

Apr 3, 2015

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.

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.

The water game: East vs. West

Jul 30, 2014
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. 

Hauling water like pioneers in Rooks County

Jul 28, 2014
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.

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.

A water-centered economy

Jul 23, 2014

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.

Kansas water plan team gets an earful in Hays

Jul 10, 2014
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.

Haskell County family tests Kansas water law

May 13, 2014
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.   

High Plains dairy producers attend Lubbock conference

Mar 16, 2014
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.

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