Kansas Aquifer Going Dry

The bottomline to this is the same as in many parts of the world. Humans overusing the water for economic gain not thinking of the future, and in the end having nothing. Excessive fines will either have to be imposed for overusing the water from the aquifer, or a way to import water from parts of the aquifer that have more water will have to be explored if possible but then again that gets people into battles over water rights. Another option could be to grow less water intensive crops combined with lessened growing of corn in order to conserve water.

Also, better water mangement to reuse irrigated water along with dry land irrigation and perhaps even introducing drip irrigation could be possible solutions to be put forth, but something has to be done soon. And of course, the fact that water is not seen as a viable issue to be discussed in a campaign because it is not a vote getter is tragic. Water is an issue that sustains our lives. How much more important can an issue be?

This isn't going to go away, and it isn't going to be remedied by replacement of water to the aquifer in large enough quantities to bring it back unless the required rainfall comes to Kansas and other areas, and in that case it would flood. Here we see many factors coming together. Human activity as far as waste and inefficient management of water resources, and climate change leading also to drought which brings inadequate rainfall to replace what has been used by the farmers.

And it will be hard to wean farmers off of growing corn or even halving their harvest which not only is a staple throughout he world, but is also their main cash crop. Again, balancing common sense practices with economic benefit seems to be becoming the hardest part of this crisis. And with the population reaching 300 million, there will also be more mouths to feed. I wonder as well what effect this will also have on the ethanol industry, as ethanol is made from corn, and corn is a very water intensive crop.

There will be updates to this as I find them.

Water Crisis Needs Attention

Water crisis demands attention
By Scott Rothschild (Contact)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Beneath the soil of landlocked Kansas lies a vast, life-sustaining source of water called the High Plains aquifer. Formed millions of years ago, the aquifer — also referred to as the Ogallala — underlies an area of 174,000 square miles in parts of eight states, including most of western Kansas.

Since the 1940s, farmers have ferociously pumped the aquifer to produce food for a hungry nation and world. An estimated 15 million acre-feet of water per year are withdrawn for irrigation. One acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons, or the amount it would take to cover an acre of land with one foot of water.

Now, in some areas of western Kansas, the aquifer has been sucked dry or is close to it, and farmers are shutting down wells. The effect of draining the source of water that grows a major portion of the nation’s crops has seismic repercussions.

“It’s a big, complex problem,” said Susan Stover, manager of the High Plains unit at the Kansas Water Office. “There will need to be a lot of changes. We can’t have near the amount of irrigated corn and alfalfa that we have. We don’t have the water.

Farmer Bill Spillman, viewed through the front window of a grain hauler driven by his employee Richard Rachel, heads into the fields to cut corn last Friday in Hoxie. Spillman uses both irrigation and dry-land farming methods. “The bottom line is, if everything was sustainable, we wouldn’t be tinkering with it,” she said.

Competing forces

It’s a simple equation. Agriculture is drawing more water from the aquifer than percolates back down through rainfall and runoff. The water table drops lower, making it impossible or financially impractical to pump water from below. The issue is made even more difficult because of the current seven-year drought and because some areas of the aquifer are nearly depleted while others have enough water for generations of irrigation.

More at the link
High Plains Aquifer Information

Water level changes in High Plains Aquifer from 1980-2002

USGS Image And Information