Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Time Running out for the Ogallala" Article

Dave Thier just posted an item on the Ogallala Aquifer that is the typical gloom and doom approach - the implication is that the entire Ogallala is doomed to go dry in 20 years or less.  The picture here is from the article, and is identified as being an irrigation system near Hoxie, KS - within our GMD here in NW Kansas. 

While not stated as such in this article, I wonder if the picture is presented by the author as an example of the wasteful irrigation methods being used that are the cause of the doom cited in the article.  This is usually the case in most pieces I read on this subject.  It could also be that Mr. Thier intended nothing more than to supply a striking picture of an irrigation system to add interest to his piece - it is a nice photo.  If this is the case then I apologize for overreacting.

In any event, this kind of irrigation in GMD 4 is rare - in fact, this is the only big gun system we staff at GMD 4 are aware of.  Secondly, this photo was taken along the tree-lined banks of the Solomon River East of Hoxie - the water source being the alluvial aquifer associated with the Solomon - not the Ogallala.  Thirdly, the irrigated fields in this area are very small and irregular and don't lend themselves to other more common irrigation systems.  And forthly (and finally) I must say again that inefficient irrigation is NOT the cause of the declines in any aquifer we have in NW Kansas.  It is the consumptive crop water use that occurs virtually equally under every irrigation system that is the cause.

Anyway, back to the reason for this blog.  While many areas of the Ogallala are declining faster than most would think prudent, this is not the case everywhere.  Our GMD average decline rate in the Ogallala for the past 30 years has been .6 feet per year.  The range is from 2 feet per year to areas that are increasing in saturated thickness.  We are in an area of the Ogallala that I think is on the low side of all the average statistics cited for the full aquifer - and certainly far better off than all the areas the press likes to focus on - these being the worst of the worst.

Anyway, it'd be refreshing if the press would spend a little more time characterizing the aquifer more accurately so that their readers get a truer sense of the situation.  Of course, in the end, it's usually a matter of reader perspective.  If you find any level of decline appalling, then our condition is also incredually unacceptable.  Comments?

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