Farmers struggle as aquifer runs dry

Posted: May 24, 2013

Written by

Michael Wines, New York Times/GW
Aquifer ag

The southern part of the High Plains Aquifer, located in Texas, Kansas and Colorado, is running out of water.

About one-fifth of farmland along a 100-mile stretch of the aquifer has gone dry.

Farmers relied on the aquifer for water during the last two drought-stricken years. And now the Kansas Geological Survey reports that in 2011 and 2012, the average water level in the aquifer dropped 4.25 feet, nearly a third of the total decline since 1996.

Cutting out irrigation is cheaper for farmers but leads to much lower yields. Experts expect farmers to adapt to life with less water by farming without irrigation, but jobs and added income will be lost.

"Looking at areas of Texas where the groundwater has really dropped, those towns are just a shell of what they once were," said Jim Butler, a hydrogeologist and senior scientist at the Kansas Geological Survey.

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