To protect the Ogallala Aquifer and retain the economic integrity of the Southern Great Plains region, including the Texas High plains, and portions of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado, all states that are dependent on the survival of the Ogallala Aquifer. These efforts are aimed at developing innovative conservation measures for the Ogallala Aquifer resource through a multi-state, university, and federal program. The collective regional knowledge base will focus on an integrated program to develop and transfer water conservation technology.
The projected total present value of irrigation over 60 years is $19.3 billion or $990 per acre. Agriculture irrigation accounts for nearly 90 percent of the groundwater withdrawals in many areas of the Ogallala Aquifer region. The Ogallala Aquifer in Western Kansas and the Texas High Plains is, however, declining at an unacceptable rate of 1 to 3 feet per year. To ensure the sustainability of rural communities in this region, continued investments are needed to protect the Ogallala Aquifer. If no new water management strategies are implemented, the saturated thickness of the Ogallala Aquifer will decrease by 48 percent in 60 years, resulting in a $20 billion loss to the Southern Great Plains economy.
- Irrigation Recommendations. A new method based on satellite observations is being developed to provide real-time irrigation recommendations on a field-by-field basis to farmers. This method could reduce the total amount of water applied to a typical irrigated field by around 2 inches per growing season, resulting in a saving of over 350,000 acre-feet of Ogallala Aquifer per year across the Southern High Plains.
- Water-Conserving Landscapes. Helped create Turffalo-Buffalograss, Shadow Turf-Zoysiagrass, and the Red Raider Native Wildflower Collection that have been distributed statewide for use in water conserving landscapes
- Integrated Production. Developed an integrated crop/livestock/forage production system that requires 23 percent less irrigation water over cotton monoculture systems, potentially saving Texas producers an estimated $18 million in cash expenses
- Policy Recommendations. Recent research challenges the argument for managing groundwater as a common property resource and suggests that a CRP type of policy would be superior to tax and quota-based ones to achieve water conservation goals
- Conservation Options. A survey of producer and water district managers in Kansas and Texas revealed that the most relevant water conservation policy options for the southern portion of the Ogallala Aquifer would be: 1) investments in bio-engineered drought resistant crop varieties, 2) investments in efficient irrigation technologies, 3) short-term water rights buyouts, 4) long-term water rights buyouts, and 5) water use restrictions
- Best Practices. Conducted outreach programs for producers and agribusiness leaders highlighting current and future production and water management best practices. Emerging technology presentations were given on the new SmartCrop irrigation management technology and Exactrix anhydrous delivery systems.
Lead Agency: USDA-ARS
Partners: Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University System, Kansas State University, West Texas A&M University
Federal Funding Request for FY 2010: $5 million (TTU receives about 22 percent of total)