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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #400978

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Beef brief: A new normal for irrigated agriculture to sustain the Ogallala Aquifer

item STEINER, JEAN - New Mexico State University
item Spiegal, Sheri
item Elias, Emile
item ANEY, SKYE - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Zenodo
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/28/2022
Publication Date: 11/22/2022
Citation: Steiner, J.L., Spiegal, S.A., Elias, E.H., Aney, S. 2022. Beef brief: A new normal for irrigated agriculture to sustain the Ogallala Aquifer. Zenodo. Brief.

Interpretive Summary: This brief report describes successful water policies to reduce Ogallala Aquifer overuse. These policies were applied in Kansas and may be helpful in other States reliant on Ogallala Aquifre water. . The water management flexibilities used in Kansas could enhance sustainability of the vibrant agricultural economies reliant on the Ogallala aquifer. Creative government and private–public partnerships should support adoption of innovative technologies and management as end-users chart a new normal for irrigated agriculture to sustain this critical aquifer resource and the vibrant beef sector that is an economic engine for the Southern Plains and Southwest regions. This brief report is based upon this publication: Steiner, J.L.; Devlin, D.L.; Perkins, S.; Aguilar, J.P.; Golden, B.; Santos, E.A.; Unruh, M. Policy, Technology, and Management Options for Water Conservation in the Ogallala Aquifer in Kansas, USA. Water 2021, 13, 3406.

Technical Abstract: The Ogallala Aquifer underlies 45 million hectares, providing water for approximately 1.9 million people and supporting the robust agricultural economy of the US Great Plains. Beef is the dominant commodity, with Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas - major destinations for cattle from ranches of the arid Southwest – representing 35% of the nation’s cattle sales. Concentrated feeding operations in this region rely on irrigated agriculture for feeds and forages. Water in the Ogallala Aquifer has been severely depleted, particularly in the southern end. Continuing with business-as-usual water withdrawals puts the aquifer and the agricultural economy that is built upon it at risk. Kansas water policy allows flexible solutions to reduce groundwater extraction while supporting productivity and economic. Water allocations are reduced in exchange for increased flexibility such as multi-year water allocation, banking of unused water for future years, and changes in location or use of allocated water. Demonstrated water conservation successes in Kansas show a path toward a “new normal” for irrigation in the Ogallala Aquifer region.