Running Dry: The Future of the Ogallala Aquifer

by Alex Stanek, Political Science major

In the Great Plains region of the United States, one source provides water “nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton, and cattle produced in the United States” (USDA). Unfortunately for farmers in the region, this water source is being overused and rapidly depleted, with groundwater levels in some areas dropping as much as 150 feet.

In an attempt to preserve this important resource, the federal government has stepped in and started the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative, through the US Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service. This program was established to provide “technical and financial assistance to selected agricultural producers to help them implement conservation practices needed on their operations” (USDA).

So far, the results have been promising, but not enough to reverse the overuse. Since the program was started in 2011, the NRCS has invested $66 million in financial assistance. This money has helped more than 1,500 agricultural producers on 325,000 acres use less water, reducing water withdrawals by at least 1.5 million acre-feet (USDA). Put another way, that’s a whopping 489 billion gallons of water left in the ground for future generations.

While the problems the Ogallala faces are difficult, efforts to reduce water usage can be successful. Through programs like the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative, hopefully we can reduce water usage in the region, and preserve the precious resource for future farmers.

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Alex Stanek is a senior at The Ohio State University, where he studies Political Science. When he’s not studying for his next exam, you can find him reading the news or watching soccer.

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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