Location: Livestock and Range Research LaboratoryTitle: The declining Ogallala Aquifer and the future role of rangeland science on the North American High Plains
|RHODES, EDWARD - Texas A&M University|
|PEROTTO-BALDIVIESO, HUMBERTO - Texas A&M University|
|TANNER, EVAN - Texas A&M University|
|FOX, WILLIAM - Texas A&M University|
Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/12/2022
Publication Date: 1/13/2023
Citation: Rhodes, E.C., Perotto-Baldivieso, H.L., Tanner, E.P., Angerer, J.P., Fox, W.E. 2023. The declining Ogallala Aquifer and the future role of rangeland science on the North American High Plains. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 87:83-96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2022.12.002.
Interpretive Summary: In a large portion of the Great Plains region of the United States, the Ogallala Aquifer supplies water for drinking water and agricultural use. Since the 1950's, the aquifer has been used for irrigation of row crops and pasture. With the advent of pivot irrigation system, irrigation is now the predominant use of the aquifer, supporting one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the world. Although recent improvements in irrigation and cropping technologies have made more efficient use of the water from the aquifer, it is currently being depleted at an unsustainable rate. Decisions will need to be made by the end of the century on new land management strategies that do not depend on the aquifer. The rangeland science and management community can contribute greatly to developing these new strategies aimed at preserving soil and rangeland health. Therefore, allowing the Ogallala region to continue to provide food, fiber, and other ecosystem services, both locally and globally.
Technical Abstract: The Ogallala Aquifer region, located in the Great Plains region of the central United States, is the largest freshwater aquifer in North America, supporting one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the world. In this paper, we discuss the history of settlement and water use in this region, from the Homestead Act and the Dust Bowl to modern irrigation systems. While many improvements to irrigation technology and water efficient crops have helped to prolong the life of the Ogallala, continued use of this finite resource is leading to a tragedy of the commons, wherein difficult land management decisions will have to be made by this century's end. We posit that the art and science of rangeland management stands uniquely poised to tackle this challenge directly through creative integration, where appropriate, of native rangeland restoration, improved pasture management, integrated crop -livestock systems, and regenerative agricultural practices aimed at preserving soil and rangeland health, thereby providing continuity in the ability of the Ogallala region to continue to provide food, fiber, and other ecosystem services both locally and globally. Furthermore, we provide discussion on future research, extension, and educational needs to consider as the exploration for adaptive solutions are developed and evaluated in the coming decades.