Ogallala Aquifer-The return of the Dust Bowl?


Most US. Aquifers are being seriously damaged by overuse of water including our own Delmarva shallow and deep aquifers but perhaps the most serious is the Ogallala Aquifer that underlies the great plains an area extending from South Dakota down to well South of the Texas panhandle including portions of Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. The Ogallala was the largest underground body of fresh water in the world and it does not replenish itself. Twenty percent of US corn comes from this former 1930’s and 40’s dust bowl. The dust bowl ended when pumping equipment was developed to reach the Ogallala Aquifer. Most of the irrigation is done using flood or rotary systems which waste exponentially more water than plant’s use. Its even less efficient than the use of oil based chemical fertilizer to grow corn. On the bright side there are 15,000 acres of corn produced in SW Kansas, which use precision irrigation developed by Kansas State University (see reference #76 under solutions). The Ogallala has gone from an average depth of 240 feet to an average depth of 80 feet in 50 years. In Happy Texas, at the southern end of the Ogallala water has run out. The grain elevators have gone out of business, the land has been put into the Government subsidized CRP program and the town is in depression. Happy is the canary in the coalmine, predicting the fate of much of the great Midwest and perhaps the return of the Dust Bowl. This loss of water could trigger a World food disaster since many areas of the World are now dependant on American corn exports. Officials of the Ogallala Research Service, a division of USDA, see no way to stop this inevitable disaster and are hoping that changes in water use practices and development of draught resistant seed will provide another 60 years of water and a soft landing. All of us can help the Ogallala and improve our exposure to cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and stroke by eating no CAFO produced beef and pork, no High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) the primary uses of corn and more pastured raised meat and organically produced vegetables. Federal and State governments could help by stopping all subsidies of the industrial system including cover crops and ethanol subsidies, which are throwing good money after bad to prolong a basically flawed concept. Further Government could help by mandating nationwide precision management of water, mandating enforcement of their soil management guidelines, requiring CAFO manure processing, and banning CAFO antibiotic and growth hormone usage. Perhaps Government’s most effective help can come from consumer education. Benjamin Franklin said “we have given you a Constitutional Republic if you can handle it”. The jury is still out will people react in their long term self interest or will their own addictions and the influence of special interest groups prevail (US farmers fear the return of the Dust Bowl –  London Telegraph)

Which of our finite natural resources will deplete first our topsoil or our water?

As I learn more about our Industrial meat, dairy and processed food system, I appreciate the foresight of one of greatest minds that ever lived.

Nothing will benefit human health or survival of life on earth more than evolution to a vegetarian diet–Albert Einstein 1879- 1955


2 Responses to “Ogallala Aquifer-The return of the Dust Bowl?”

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