Source: U.S. Geological Survey
Groundwater withdrawals for crop
irrigation have increased to over 16 million acre-feet per year in the High
Plains Aquifer, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study.
The USGS study shows that recharge, or
the amount of water entering the aquifer, is less than the amount of groundwater
being withdrawn, causing groundwater losses in this already diminished natural
resource. Crop irrigation is the largest use of groundwater in the aquifer, and,
over the past 60 years, has caused severe water-level declines of up to 100 feet
in some areas. The new USGS findings address concerns about the long-term
sustainability of the aquifer.
"The High Plains Aquifer is Nature's
nearly perfect water storage system: self-recharging, safe from natural
disasters, readily accessed over a broad area, and with copious capacity," said
USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "And yet in less than 100 years we are seriously
depleting what took Nature more than 10,000 years to fill."
The High Plains aquifer underlies about
175,000 square miles in parts of eight states – Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New
Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming – and is a major source of
groundwater irrigation in the region. The High Plains region supplies
approximately one-fourth of the nation’s agricultural production.
"Because groundwater losses are greater
than recharge, water levels in many parts of the aquifer are currently
declining," said Jennifer Stanton, USGS scientist and an author of the report.
"Such information can inform groundwater management decisions made by state and
The new USGS study also compares
previously published data with new methods for estimating recharge and
groundwater withdrawals and provides an assessment of the strengths and
weaknesses of those methods.
This USGS report is part of a larger
study to evaluate groundwater
availability of the High Plains Aquifer. The study is being conducted through
the USGS Groundwater Resources
Program to assist state and
local groundwater management agencies and to assess the status of groundwater
resources from a national perspective.
here to access the full
report on line.