USDA Invests in Ogallala Aquifer

Kelly MarshallConservation, Government, NRCS, USDA, Water Management

USDA_logo_svgFarmers and Ranchers in the Ogallala Aquifer can expect improved water quality and the conservation of billions of gallons with the assistance of the USDA‘s $6.5 million dollar investment.  Secretary Vilsack announced that funding will be directed towards seven target areas to support primary water sources and encourage rural economies.

“This funding assists conservationists and agricultural producers in planning and implementing conservation practices that conserve water and improve water quality,” said Vilsack. “This work not only expands the viability of the Ogallala Aquifer but also helps producers across the Great Plains strengthen their agricultural operations.”

The Ogallala Aquifer supports almost one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton, and cattle grown in the US. It encompasses eight Great Plains states and is the main water supply for the High Plains’ population of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  Currently the rate of use for the aquifer is unsustainable.

Through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is directing funding in fiscal 2015 to support targeted, local efforts to improve the quality and availability of this vital water supply. This year’s work is planned in seven priority areas in five states and will continue for up to four years. It will conserve billions of gallons of water per year, extending the viability of the aquifer for multiple uses. This conservation investment builds on $66 million that NRCS has invested through OAI since 2011, which helped farmers and ranchers conserve water on more than 325,000 acres. The Secretary noted that much of the funding invested by USDA has been matched or supplemented by individual producers.

“Water is a precious resource, and the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative helps our farmers and ranchers use it wisely,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller. “This is especially important in a place like the Ogallala, where drought conditions have prevailed in recent years. We know we can’t change the weather, but we can help producers be ready for it.”