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."