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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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