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Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Peak groundwater depletion in the High Plains Aquifer, projections from 1930 to 2110

item Steward, David - Kansas State University
item Allen, Andrew - Kansas State University

Submitted to: Agricultural Water Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/1/2015
Publication Date: 11/11/2015
Citation: Steward, D.R., Allen, A.J. 2015. Peak groundwater depletion in the High Plains Aquifer, projections from 1930 to 2110. Agricultural Water Management. 170(2016):36-48.

Interpretive Summary: Water availability from the Ogallala Aquifer has been declining since the development of widespread irrigation in 1950. However, water users and policy makers have a poor understanding of future water availability. Therefore, scientists from Kansas State University in the ARS led Ogallala Aquifer Program applied approaches to estimate peak withdrawals and future depletion of oil to groundwater withdrawals from the Ogallala Aquifer. Peak aquifer depletion occurred in 2006 and annual depletion will be less than half in 2110. Peak depletion occurred in 1999 and 2010 for Texas and Kansas, respectively. These results are of interest to farmers and water policy makers in making decisions regarding water conservation.

Technical Abstract: Peak groundwater depletion from overtapping aquifers beyond recharge rates occurs as the depletion rate increases until a peak occurs followed by a decreasing trend as pumping equilibrates towards available recharge. The logistic equation of Hubbert’s study of peak oil is used to project measurements at a set of observation wells, which provide estimates of saturated thickness and changes in groundwater storage from 1930 to 2110. The annual rate of depletion in High Plains Aquifer of the central USA is estimated to have peaked at 8.25 × 109 m per yr in 2006 followed by projected decreases to 4.0 × 109 m per yr in 2110. The timing of peaks follows a south to north progression, with peaks occurs in 1999 for Texas, 2002 for New Mexico, 2010 for Kansas, 2012 for Oklahoma and 2023 for Colorado; peaks do not occur before 2110 for Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. The manifestation of peak groundwater depletion contributes towards the more comprehensive understanding necessary to assess potential vulnerabilities in the water food nexus posed by aquifer depletion.