Thursday, October 29, 2015

Texas irrigation project focused on 'unsustainable' Ogallala Aquifer that serves eight states

A group of northwest Texas farmers are working to slow the amount of water drawn from the Ogallala Aquifer in an attempt to save a system that can't recharge fast enough to replenish supplies, reports Agri-Pulse. The 225,000 square mile underground water, which has been labeled 'unsustainable' by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, provides groundwater to parts of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. (Agri-Pulse photo: A center pivot irrigation system tests different types of water delivery)

Glenn Schur, who farms near Plainview, Texas, told Agri-Pulse, “We don’t have any more water, so I think it’s more important for us to make every drop count of the water that we do have, and the technology is going to improve.”

As part of the project, through the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation, "producers keep meticulous records about things ranging from water use and soil moisture to crop productivity and return on investment," reports Agri-Pulse. "Rick Kellison, project director with TAWC, said the initiative currently covers more than 7,000 acres across 31 sites in nine counties." He told Agri-Pulse, “The goal of the project is to help producers determine ways that they can use less water and still be economically viable. Where water is our primary limiting factor every year as far as our ability to make a crop, that’s a pretty significant undertaking.”

Part of the project includes switching from row water irrigation to center-pivot irrigation and drip irrigation, reports Agri-Pulse. "The switch to drip irrigation and center pivot irrigation allows for more targeted water use, therefore requiring less than what was once necessary under more traditional row water or flood irrigation techniques. Under those methods, water was dispersed in greater quantities, usually in the rows between plants or flooded across the field."

"According to Kellison, the project was originally an eight-year program authorized by the Texas legislature, and it recently received another round of funding," reports Agri-Pulse. "Results demonstrated in the first round included 569 acre-feet of water conserved across all sites from 2006-2012. An acre foot is the volume of water that would cover an acre of ground with a foot of water. NRCS also has an initiative to ease the burden on the Ogallala, but its focus is on the entire aquifer rather than focused on Texas. Part of that plan involves a goal of improving efficiency on 20 percent of the 3.7 million acres of irrigated farmland fed by the aquifer.through the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation." Agri-Pulse is subscription-only but offers a four-week free trial.

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