Thursday, August 15, 2013

Heavy Water Consumption in Lower Ogallala Aquifer Heaviest in Dust Bowl Area

I love the Interior Plains of the United States.  I feel at home in the wide open land where the tall grass blows in the wind.  The way of life, the unique mix of cultures overlooked by those whose multiculturalism ends at the urban Ethiopian restaurant, and most of all the people make the area exceptionally rich.  Because of this love I have vehemently defended the region from those who view it as "backwards" or little more than flyover country.

However, the people in the southern Interior Plains nearly destroyed it by employing foreign (i.e. non-local) farming practices which resulted in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The Dust Bowl ended because 1) many farmers who were doing harmful agricultural practices left the region which allowed 2) the grassland to grow back and 3) the use of the Ogallala Aquifer to support agriculture.

The third point has allowed agriculture, both family and industrial, to expand in the southern Interior Plains.  However, the overuse of the aquifer risks another agricultural failure which when combined with a drought poses the risk of another Dust Bowl.  Take a look at the map of where the Dust Bowl was and where the worst depletion of the aquifer is.  This is a cause for worry in the long term.

Map from Dust Bowl Odyssey.
This Stratfor map (click to enlarge) shows the greatest depletion in the worst place possible.

1 comment:

Twelve Mile Circle said...

I spent a full week in the center of that bullseye last spring, in the five-state area directly surrounding that westernmost part of Oklahoma's panhandle. I agree, it's an oddly beautiful place that's completely underrated. It was also exceptionally dry -- they were (and I suppose still are) experiencing the worst drought since the Dust Bowl years; yet, crops were everywhere because of the Ogallala Aquifer. The aquifer is diminishing and once it's gone, it's gone. It's ancient water that will not be replenished. We don't seem to have learned many lessons from the last Dust Bowl and these lands will return to what they once were someday.