Ogallala Aquifer still emptying

The Ogallala Aquifer is still emptying, according to a piece in Red Orbit, which is long, thorough and cites a number of different sources.

What is it and why am I bothered? If you’ve been paying attention since I started this about two years ago you’ll have noticed that I’m very interested in water and I’m particularly interested in the Ogallala aquifer because it supports much of the farming and biofuels industry in a band in the mid-West from Canada to Texas.

When its empty its empty, the thing fills very slowly and its already down about 40% on the level when farming started in a big way.

Hattip to Nuprana

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3 Responses to Ogallala Aquifer still emptying

  1. Pradeep 24 September, 2008 at 10:44 pm #

    Very interesting to see a water article on this blog.Water and land are the two big variables for food crops and biofuels. I also wrote a piece about it on my erstwhile blog:

    Parts of central and south High Plains underwent more drastic water-level changes compared to their northern counterparts. Accordingly, the area-weighted water-level changes per state were more pronounced in Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas compared to Colorado and Nebraska. Therefore, even if the water might still be around for another 2 centuries, parts of the High Plains might be facing depleted ground water levels sometime soon. These water-level changes might have important implications for US food supply.
    (The Ogallala is also known as the High Plains aquifer.)

    http://slouchpotato.wordpress.com/2007/11/25/water-the-high-plains-aquifer/

  2. larryhagedon 25 September, 2008 at 4:00 am #

    America will wait till we are out of water, then they will use alternative energies; wind, solar, wave, tidal, and ocean currents to desalinate billions of acre feet of sea water.

    They will pump this potable water thru pipelines all over the drier portions of the country for human, industrial and agricultural usage.

    A by product of this will be large scale mineral salvage from the seawater. There will be dozens of minerals that will be worth separating out of sea water, water that they have to pump and desalinate anyway. These minerals will have ready markets and will help to offset the cost of desalination.

    We will not do this until we are out of time and potable water of course, but we will do it.

    larry

  3. Simon Robinson 25 September, 2008 at 10:27 am #

    Hey Larry, I’ve done some sums and it seems quite reasonable.

    If you assume that the 312 cubic kilometres of water extracted from the aquifer have been taken out at a steady rate of 6.24 cubic kilometres/year between 1955 and 2005. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala_Aquifer ) and that it takes around 906 GWh to produce 500Ml water from a standard desalination plant ( http://www.ffc.org.au/FFC_files/desal/Whatisdesalination-factsheet-1.pdf ), and that you use a top-of-the range 2002 solar cell set up ( http://www.bfrl.nist.gov/863/bipv/documents/ieeeFNL.pdf ) then you’d need to cover 3518 square kilometres (half the surface area of Delaware) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delaware) with the solar cells to produce enough energy to desalinate the water extracted from the aquifer each year. The average cost installing that many solar cells (and I guess there could be bulk discounts) would be 1428/square meter. That’s making Mr Paulson’s request for a mere 700bn without strings look like a good deal to me. Wouldn’t it be better to hang on to the water for as long as possible?

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