Farmers and Ranchers Work to Conserve Nation’s Largest Aquifer

(USDA NRCS) With the help of U.S Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, farmers and ranchers are working hard to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer, a 225,000-square-mile underground basin vital to agriculture, municipal and industrial development.  The aquifer stretches from western Texas to South Dakota and supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States.

By reducing an individual operation’s water use, conservation helps relieve some of the pressure put on the aquifer.  Many farmers are switching their irrigation systems from gravity to sprinkler center pivots and subsurface drip irrigation systems, which can increase pumping efficiencies by at least 40 percent.

Technology is also playing a large role in water conservation.  Some new pivots use variable rate irrigation, meaning as the pivot travels over areas, it adjusts water rates to match the need.  Conservation practices such as no-till and cover crops can help improve soil health and water quality.  Healthy soils increase water capacity and infiltration making lands more resilient to drought.

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