Friday, June 01, 2012

Study offers detail on how High Plains aquifers are being used at unsustainable rates

A new study looking at key aquifers that lie beneath the Great Plains suggest that areas of Kansas and Texas are drawing groundwater at an unsustainable rate. More than one-third of the Southern Great Plains could be out of water in 30 years, according to the report from University of Texas at Austin's Sustainable Water Resources Program. The findings were published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Photo by Fernando Salazar)

These concerns aren't new, but Pete Spotts reports in The Christian Science Monitor that the researchers say their work has built "a detailed picture of these critical water sources – how the amount of water they contain varies with time, location, and regional climate patterns – and could allow for more nuanced approaches to local water management." Those issues are already complicated by competing governmental agencies trying to mete out a vanishing yet shared resource, each wondering how to straddle "the divide between private ownership of land, and by extension the water under it."

The study has some dire warnings. "One involved the Ogallala Aquifer, a resource that stretches north along the Texas-New Mexico border through the Oklahoma panhandle and western Kansas to extend through virtually all of Nebraska and into eastern Wyoming," Spotts writes. "Farming in the High Plains contributes about $35 billion a year to the economy. The central and southern High Plains is where groundwater losses have been most pronounced. For the southern High Plains in particular, if consumption continues into the future as it did between 1997 and 2007, the aquifer there will be unable to support irrigation for about 35 percent of the region within the next 30 years, the researchers estimate."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

anything being done about it? you'd think big ag would be working for real solutions but big ag is totally dollar oriented, not future of american oriented. so what's the future? end beef farming? end massive poultry and hog factory farming? how do we preserve a water source for future generations. they're our kids and gtandkids and great grandkids.