ogallala aquifer initative

Whose Rights are Right?

Mar 6, 2017
James Miller, 1999 / USGS

What do we say when we talk about the Ogallala aquifer? It’s the “life-blood” and “linchpin to the economy.”  Some farmers point out they aren’t growing crops, they’re exporting water in bushels of corn and soybean, and bales of alfalfa and cotton.   That is also true with the beef and milk produced.  What the aquifer isn’t:  it isn’t an ocean, although it held more water in its silty, sandy layers than five Lake Eries; it isn’t a river, although more water is pumped annually than flows in the Colorado River; and it isn’t inexhaustible.  

The High Plains Pubic Radio community read, Ogallala Blue by William Ashworth, describes the development of the aquifer and water laws to manage it.

cstoddard / Flickr Creative Commons

Aquifers around the world, including the High Plains, provide water for crops, but as National Geographic reports, a new study suggests that some of the biggest grain-producing regions could run dry in the next 50 to 100 years.

USGS.org

After the new year, the Kansas Geological Survey will be measuring groundwater levels in western Kansas to monitor the health and sustainability of the High Plains aquifer.

Lori Potter / Kearney Hub

The NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program targets funds to priority resource concerns such as a lack of wildlife habitat, erosion control, water quantity, and water quality. Partners, like water conservation management districts, submit proposals to help producers install and maintain conservation activities in select project areas. These proposals often included innovative or experimental approaches.

oklahomafarmreport.com

Producer Joel Bergman of Loomis, Nebraska, talks about how he switched from labor-intensive canal and gravity irrigation to pivot and underground drip systems on his 1500-acre operation. The Bergman farmstead prevents one pivot system from sweeping 360 degrees, bypassing the pie-slice where the farmstead is located. Bergman proposed putting in a wiper center pivot and 20-acres' worth of underground drip irrigation.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is partnering with regional agencies in promoting meaningful actions for water conservation. Certain areas over the aquifer have experienced more groundwater depletion than others. Kansas producer Gary Moss received help through the local groundwater management district to revert part of his irrigated operation to dryland and meet his water consumption goal.

Farm Foundation

Southwest Kansas producer Steve Arnold had been a big irrigator. Ten wells, numerous pivot irrigation systems and 4-wheel-drive tractors on a farm near Johnson City.