News / USA

Kansas Farmers Work to Prevent Depletion of Ogallala Aquifer

Kansas Farmers Work to Prevent Depletion of Ogallala Aquiferi
X
March 21, 2014 9:44 PM
The Ogallala Aquifer is a large underground water resource that sits below parts of seven U.S. states in the Midwest. The aquifer is used to provide fresh water to people and to irrigate crops in the region. But continuing to use the water for the agriculture industry could eventually deplete the aquifer, according to a Kansas State University study. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports, Kansas farmers are working to preserve it for future generations.
Kane Farabaugh
The Ogallala Aquifer is a large underground water resource that sits below parts of seven U.S. states in the Midwest.  The aquifer is used to provide fresh water to people and to irrigate crops in the region.  But continuing to use the water for the agriculture industry could eventually deplete the aquifer, according to a Kansas State University study.  Kansas farmers are working to preserve it for future generations.
 
Mitchell Baalman's farm outside Hoxie, Kansas is about as rural as you can get.

"We're kind of out here on our own.  Not a lot of populace," he said.
 
And not a lot of rain, due to a prolonged drought.
 
"We're the eternal optimists, us farmers out here in western Kansas,"  Baalman said. "We always think it's going to get better."
 
Baalman farms land that has been in his family for four generations.  His father was born during the infamous Dust Bowl in the 1930s, when the farmland dried out, dusted up, and drove people away.

"We're probably almost to those circumstances right now," he said.
 
But what makes the current drought different from the Dust Bowl at the Baalman family farm is the Ogallala Aquifer.
 
Out in the heart of his wheat fields, an industrial pump draws water out of a well tapped into the massive underground aquifer.
 
The water reaches an above-ground "pivot" system that slowly moves in a circular pattern over the planted crops.  Baalman says it is a major improvement over the old pipe systems that used to flood the farmland.
 
"Ten years ago, we might have averaged 700 to 800 gallons per minute wells," he said. "Today, in 2014, we're probably averaging 400."

Baalman is proud of those figures.  He is keenly aware that the depletion of the Ogallala aquifer could ultimately drive his family off the land.

"I started realizing the importance of water when I realized that my boys - and everyone else's kids - want to move back to these small towns," he said. "To keep bringing the populace back to these small communities, we have to have the water."
 
"It's an emotional issue, I think, for anyone that works in water," said Katherine Wilkins-Wells, general manager of the Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District 4. "It's everything to these people and to the people that work in it.  Without water, we are not existing."
 
There are five such districts in Kansas, governed by local boards, which include farmers like Baalman.  The districts work with farmers on ways to curb overall water use.

"There's a technology that they're looking at - where the center pivot will go around the field, and will increase its water use or decrease it as it's talking to a computer to a moisture probe that's in the ground, and those moisture probes are telling the sprinklers when they need to be on and when they need to be off to get water to the roots as quick as possible," Wilkins-Wells said.
 
Ever the eternal optimist, Baalman is confident in the future of his farm, thanks to good crop planning and water conservation.
 
"It'll rain sometime, and all we hope is we have the right amount of fertilizer, the right hybrid out there, the correct crop out there to utilize that water at the time," he said. "My dad went through it.  My grandpa went through it.  We're just going through it now."

He hopes his efforts will ensure the Ogallala Aquifer is a viable water source, one his own children can - and will - someday depend on.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More