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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid