Term paper on Impact of a Diminishing Resource: The Ogalalla and the Texas South Plains

The future of the Texas South Plains is widely discussed in our society. The Ogallala aquifer is considered to be the primary water source to the geographical area of west-central Texas.  However, the Ogallala aquifer that is overlaid by the High Plains “bread basket,”ť has undergone a very serious depletion, according to the Texas Water Resources Institute. About 340 million acre- feet of groundwater has been found in the Ogallala aquifer (Kromm & White 29). However, the distribution of the groundwater resource is uneven because some geographical areas are very thin with less than 100 feet, while other areas are very thick with more than 900 feet. Severe depletion can be found in the thin section. In the thick sections, water resources contribute to irrigation for many years. Because of the increased irrigation and farming, about 94% of groundwater is used in agriculture. The local economy depends heavily on the irrigated agriculture. The statistics show that this system supports about 1/5 of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle and other products produced in the USA (Kromm & White 22). It is very important to realize the significance of water conservation in such important agricultural region as the Texas South Plains.

The Major Characteristics of the Ogallala Aquifer

            It is known that the Ogallala aquifer occupies the territory of the High Plains, extending northward from west-central Texas to South Dakota. The Ogallala is an important geologic formation, which is also called the High Plains Aquifer System. The system’s length is about 450.000 sq. km of eight states (Gabriel, Mason & Gottler 63). The major characteristics of the Ogallala aquifer include the following: it consists of unconsolidated clay, sand, gravel and silt; the spaces between grains below the water table are filled with ground water. The dominant constituent is sand. Water is generally unconfined, of good chemical quality. Moreover, the Ogallala formation, that contains in excess of 2 billion acre-feet of water, is considered to be “the largest underground reservoir of fresh water in the world”ť (Gibeault 32). Today the Ogallala aquifer is in the state of overdraft because of the increasing rate of water use. It is known that in some parts of the Ogallala aquifer, “groundwater is being pumped out 10-40 times faster than the slow natural recharge rate which has lowered water tables and increased pumping costs”ť (Spoolman & Miller 320). This fact means that the Ogallala Formation could be depleted in a few decades.

The Future of Texas South Plains Region without the Ogallala Aquifer

According to David Kromm, “the future economy of the Texas South Plains region depends heavily on the Ogallala aquifer, which remains the major source of water for the US residents. The Ogallala formation will remain to be the so-called lifeblood of the region only in case the system is managed in a proper way to reduce the negative effects of contamination and depletion.

Moreover, without the gigantic Ogallala aquifer which today supplies about 1/3 of all the groundwater used in the USA, it would be very difficult to provide water supply to the major irrigated agricultural regions.

Besides the above mentioned facts, the Texas South Plains region without the Ogallala aquifer would develop the appropriate strategies to increase crop production through growing drought tolerant crops. As today the Ogallala aquifer helps to support biodiversity in this region, without the water from the Ogallala, many species would die. For example, in many places, groundwater from the Ogallala appears in the form of springs and many species, including birds, use this water for drinking. This fact means that “if the water tables fall, many of aquatic oases of biodiversity will disappear”ť (Spoolman & Miller 320).

In addition, without the Ogallala aquifer, it would be very difficult for many farmers to continue their businesses because they would have no enough water for agriculture production. As a result, they would have to migrate to the cities that are overcrowded and lack of employment opportunities for these farmers.

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