Ogallala Aquifer drying up more during drought

Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 7:20 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Texans are tapping more into the underground aquifer due to the drought and high temperatures. The Ogallala Aquifer that sits below West Texas is being drained at a faster rate.

It spans from the High Plains up to Nebraska. The biggest threat of running out of water is currently in Texas.

A professor in the Center for Law and Policy at Texas Tech University’s Law School, Amy Hardberger, says the more rainfall we get, the better shape the aquifer is in.

“Whenever it rains across the state, we see less pumping, whether it be municipal or agricultural, so it kind of gives the aquifers a little bit of a break,” Hardberger said.

Throughout the drought, Texans have seen the increasing importance of groundwater. The Donovan Maddox Chair of Environmental Engineering at Texas Tech, Danny Reible, said it is the most consistent resource of water.

“Surface water, these are streams that during drought dry up, many of our surface water streams so we depend on groundwater,” Reible said.

Hardberger said the Ogallala Aquifer is crucial for water, food and clothes.

“Our ability to stay in this area, whether it be agriculture or City of Lubbock, is 100% dependent on our water stewardship now,” Hardberger said.

So, she’s asking people to conserve. She said farmers can use technology that measures soil moisture.

“Having that drive the conversation of whether watering needs to happen versus what we think is needed up on the surface,” Hardberger said.

She adds everyone can cut back on their daily water use.

“Lower the amount of water use that using on a regular basis,” Hardberger said.

Reible said as water levels do go down over time, he thinks farmers will turn to other water sources because of cost and the Ogallala Aquifer will be mainly used by cities.

“We’re willing to pay more for drinking water than the benefit a farmer may get using it for agriculture water,” Reible said.

Hardberger said if people do not conserve now, it could not only impact food and water sources, but could harm Texas economically. The Ogallala is under a vast agriculture area that currently relies on the groundwater.

If the Ogallala Aquifer runs out, Hardberger said it will not be filled back up in our lifetime.