Thursday, July 5, 2012

Drought caused big drop in Texas portion of Ogallala Aquifer

Kate Galbraith in the Texas Tribune: The historic Texas drought caused the Ogallala Aquifer to experience its largest decline in 25 years across a large swath of the Texas Panhandle, new numbers from a water district show.

The 16-county High Plains Underground Water Conservation District reported this week that its monitoring wells showed an average decline last year of 2.56 feet — the third-largest in the district’s 61-year history, and three times the average rate over the past decade. Farmers pumped more water during the drought to compensate for the lack of rainfall, which was about two-thirds less than normal last year in Lubbock and Amarillo.

Further north in the Panhandle, along the state's border with Oklahoma, a second water district also registered large declines in the Ogallala. Steve Walthour, the general manager of the eight-county North Plains Groundwater Conservation District, calculated on Monday that the average drop in the Ogallala reached 2.9 feet last year.

"We’ve seen some pretty heavy declines," Walthour said, noting that the west side of his district got hit especially hard Given the catastrophic nature of the drought, which was the most intense in recorded state history, some farmers said things could have been worse.

“You never want to pull that much down, but under the circumstances I think we’re probably coming out pretty well,” said Tommy Fondren, who rents out his land in Crosby County for cotton farming....

A saturated thickness map of the Ogallala Aquifer, with the proposed Keystone Pipeline highlighted in red. Map by 570ajk, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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