I appreciate Kathy Holt asking me to review Ogallala Blue by William Ashworth for High Plains Public Radio. I had read the book several years ago, and recently read it again for the review.
Ogallala Blue is a good read for those who are focused on water resource challenges from the environmental, socio-economic, engineering, or well owner perspective. Ashworth uses a series of case studies to describe the history and future challenges of the Ogallala aquifer on the High Plains. Today, many High Plains communities exist and thrive because of the Ogallala.
In Texas, Ogallala water levels have been declining since the 1930’s because well owners have been pumping more water from the aquifer’s storage than recharge can replenish. As aquifer levels decline, finding and pumping water becomes progressively costlier to the region’s economy. I agree with Jeff Johnson’s interview in the book that the High Plains economy based on pumping from the Ogallala will not experience a collapse but “a long slow decline to a lower level”. To maintain the High Plains economy, stakeholders will need to develop other economic input sources that do not rely so heavily on groundwater.