There are many people out there who will say global warming is a bunch of BS, but it’s happening and our water sources are depleting. “Everyone can see the need for roads, but can you sell the need for water?” Nebraska Sen. Mark Christensen asked. “Most people aren’t aware of the importance of water in this state.” –NE Farmer
Water is used for everything from drinking, cooking, and bathing to recreational activities, farming, transportation, energy, and a part of wildlife habitats, yet it’s taken for granted. Water conservation is especially important in states like Nebraska, where many people make their living farming. In addition, “eighty percent of Nebraskans drink from groundwater supplies that are so free of contamination that no treatment is necessary.” –Lincoln Journal Star
The main source of water for the Midwest is the Ogallala Aquifer, a subsystem of the High Plains Aquifer. According to Esquire, “The system covers 174,000 square miles beneath eight different state, ranging from North Dakota to Texas and from Nebraska to parts of New Mexico.” Nebraska depends on the water from the Ogallala Aquifer. Right now the aquifer is facing two problems, running dry and being contaminated by the Keystone Pipline.
“Make no mistake. You screw with the Ogallala Aquifer and you screw with this nation’s heartbeat.” Twenty percent of the irrigated farmland in the United States depends on this water. Damage to it would change “the lives of the people who depend on it, their personal economies, the overall national economy, and what we can grow to feed ourselves.” –Esquire The water level is already dangerously low and is easy to empty, but not refill.
The recent drought has increased tension and brought about conflicts between irrigators and domestic well users. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, “In order to resolve the conflicts, the NRD spent more than $100,000 to help pay for deepening wells or taking other measure so that residents in the area could have water to drink, shower, take baths and wash clothes.” The expense of deepening a well can cost more than $20,000. The NRD is working to increase water conservation by imposing water allocations on irrigators. Flow meters will record water usage and all irrigators will be required to install them. In addition to that, the NRD will not approve any new farmland for irrigation.
Don Nelson led a group of Nebraskans for an informal discussion on water financing needs a year ago. The group estimated that “the state would need about $60 million annually for water science and technology research, to help protect water quality, to restore water infrastructure and to build new projects.” –NE Farmer
Land west of 180 degrees in Nebraska is considered too dry for farming without irrigation. “The ‘flash drought’ that hit last summer reminded Nebraskans in the eastern part of the state that they cannot take water for granted. That’s a relatively rare occurrence in a state with a plentiful supply of groundwater.” –LJS
According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Water Center, new technology and new methods are being used to help irrigators cut back on water usage without reduction in crop yields. –LJS
Whether it be from rivers, rain, or the Ogallala Aquifer, Nebraska’s future and the future of farmers depends on water.