I wonder what the non-irrigated yields in KS will be when the the Ogallala auquifer drys up like this article says it's going to? They were warning of this back in the eighties when we were custom harvesting wheat. http://news.yahoo.com/storms-u-plain...141625464.html
I encourage you to read the Yahoo user comments at the bottom of the page. Most are not very Farmer freindly.
82: The Ogallala is never going to dry up. We have local Ground Water Management Districts which rigorously enforce water conservation. There's not time or space to do a good job of explaining a complex subject here, but I will give you some highlights. The worst thing that was ever done was flood irrigation. Flood requires clean dirt to get the water to flow a half mile to the other end of the quarter. The surface evaporation losses are horrendous. Also, you have to soak water in the the ground 26' deep at the injection point to get it to flow 1/2 mi to the other end. Flood has been replaced by center pivot sprinklers with hose drops down to about 18" off the ground to minimize evaporation losses. Center pivot sprinklers with hose drops are 95%+ efficient. There are still ignorant people up in NE who use high pressure impacts and spray it up in the air where a lot of it evaporates before it ever hits the ground. But, the dinosaurs are gradually being eliminated by economic evolution. Most enlightened farmers in KS use center pivot sprinklers with hose drops 18" off the ground to minimize evaporation. We further STRIP TILL and leave residue on top of the ground to further minimize evaporation. The peak daily ET=.34"/day. ET=Evapotranspiration. E=Evaporation=70% and with the mulch of residue between the rows we reduce that to virtually nothing. We are far in excess of 95%+ efficient. There are no Dirty 30 Dust Bowls anymore cuz the corn stalks and the residue prevent it. The stalks also trap lots of snow. Corn Stalks on 30" trap and hold more snow than wheat stubble. Every year KSU puts on "Cover Your Acres" seminars. This is not to be confused with Dennis' Cover Crops which waste valuable subsoil moisture. You keep your ground covered with residue to minimize wind erosion and trap snow.
In SW KS there are still some dinosaurs who flood irrigate...hence the comments about dust down there. They are being weeded out just like the high pressure impact dinosaurs in NE.
The shale is what traps and holds the water in the Ogallala. In NW KS we are blessed with deep shale. As you go south to SW KS, the shale rises up to the surface as you get to the Arkansas River. There is another aquifer below the Ogallala called the Dakota which dwarfs the Ogallala. It is not saline in NW KS, but it is in SW KS and Reverse Osmosis or Ultra High Filtration to remove the salt would be required to use it down there. Up here, it would just cost more to pump it cuz it's deeper.
We have local Ground Water Management Districts and the Division of Water Resources which monitors the Ogallala closely. Intensive Ground Water Use Areas have been implemented by DWR. In our own area the GMD has identified High Priority Areas, and these areas have been placed on allocations. With the normal 12" of rain during the growing season, it take 12" of irrigation. These HPA's have been cut back to 11". All irrigation wells in KS have water meters with tamper proof seals. Tamper with the water meter, and you lose your water right. Every irrigator has to submit a water report to DWR by March 1 each year proving that he/she did not over pump their water right and or allocation in High Priority Areas. In these HPA's the corn seeding population is reduced accordingly. With a 550gpm well and 32,000s/a we can grow 240-270bu/a corn. If you are in a HPA allocation area, you simply reduce the population down from 32,000 proportionately. That's why we put special emphasis on corn hybrids which can FLEX.
There are specific wells where DWR and GMD's measure the static water level. We have actually been INCREASING the water level. Naturally, this years drought did not help any.
SW KS has had Weather Modification in place for over 30 years. In simplest terms this is cloud seeding. You can't make it rain more out of nothing. But, when you have a weather event, you can increase the rainfall and minimize the hail. Hailed out crops are just a waste of irrigation water.
In summary, the Ogallala is never going to dry up cuz it's too precious to us, and we practice excellent stewardship and conservation.
Doesn't look to me like your neighbors and state are wearing the same rose colored glasses you are 48.
By Doug Rich
KANSAS WATER CONFERENCE— Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (left) welcomed an overflow crowd to the Governor's Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas held Oct. 30 and 31 in Manhattan, Kan. Brownback said that the future depends largely on how we manage the Ogallala Aquifer. (Journal photo by Doug Rich.)
The Ogallala Aquifer took center stage at the Governor's Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas held Oct. 30 and 31 in Manhattan, Kan.
One western Kansas farmer in attendance at the two-day meeting described the Ogallala Aquifer situation as a "race to the bottom." About the only question that remains to be answered is how fast we get to the bottom.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the High Plains Aquifer underlies 111.8 million acres in parts of eight states, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. When substantial irrigation with groundwater began in 1950, water level declines began in the aquifer. By 1980 water levels in parts of the aquifer under Texas, Oklahoma, and southwestern Kansas had declined by more than 100 feet.
From pre-development (1950) to 2009 water levels declined more than 10 feet in 26 percent of the aquifer area, more than 25 feet in about 18 percent of the aquifer, and more than 50 feet in about 11 percent of the aquifer, according to USGS calculations. Total water storage in the High Plains aquifer in 2009 was estimated at 2.9 billion acre-feet, a decline of nearly 9 percent from pre-development storage.
"If we extend the life of the aquifer, future generations will call us wise," Gov. Sam Brownback said. "If we don't, they will consider us selfish. It is on us. It is a local decision and not one the state is going to make."
"We must conserve and extend the life of the Ogallala," Brownback said. "It is up to us to figure out how we get that done while at the same time maintaining our economic activity."
Bill Blomquist, Ph.D., Purdue University, said grim trigger strategies do not work well when managing a shared pool resource. Blomquist said graduated sanctions work better over time, allowing people to make mistakes.
"People are fallible but capable of learning," Blomquist said.
A system that gives people opportunities to vary water use is better than an all-or-none solution. Blomquist said this allows for small, marginal adjustments. He said it helps to build in a way for people to benefit from constraints such as the opportunity to lease or sell a portion of their water rights. This allows people to be compensated for restraints on water use.
Blomquist said that resource management needed local leadership and he emphasized the need for nested institutions. Blomquist said to properly manage a shared resource like the Ogallala Aquifer cooperation is necessary at all institutional levels from local to state to regional to inter-state.
Farmers in Sheridan County, Kan., are developing a Local Enhanced Management Area to limit irrigation and extend the life of the aquifer. Scott Foote, Hoxie Feed Yard, said they hope to have the LEMA approved by the state as soon as Jan. 1, 2013.
"We are asking the state to regulate us and that is not an easy thing to do," Foote said. "Basically, we are asking the state to help us manage a resource that way we want to manage it."
There have been some major challenges to overcome in development of this LEMA in northwest Kansas. Foote said the first challenge was how to set the borders for the LEMA. They generated a map using the long-term average declines in the aquifer to establish borders.
The second challenge was convincing producers that it pays to save water. Foote said producers were being asked to donate to the system.
"We will reduce income by producing fewer bushels of grain," Foote said.
Steve Irsik, Ingalls, Kan., was part of the first Groundwater Management District formed in southwest Kansas. He said at that time the prevailing attitude was "drill baby drill."
"We knew we had to slow this down," Irsik said. "There were just too many straws sucking water out of the Ogallala."
Irsik developing LEMA's are the next great opportunity for conservation.
"Just go south of Amarillo if you want to see what it is like to run out of water," Irsik said.
Another option for conserving the remaining water in the Ogallala Aquifer and maintaining growers' income is to plant more dryland crops like grain sorghum. Last year Kansas farmers grew around 2.7 million acres of grain sorghum, which is down from 8 million acres planting in the 1950s.
Gary Harshberger, who serves on the Bonanza Bioenergy and Arkalon Energy Boards, said grain sorghum is a perfect fit because the infrastructure is in place. He said we need to develop a commodity that will produce the same amount of income as corn.
One of the drawbacks for planting grain sorghum is top end yield. Greg Graff, Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission, said that 20 years ago grain sorghum yielded the same as corn when irrigated but corn yields have advanced.
"We need it up around 200 to 220 bushels an acre like corn," Graff said. "We need to get our top end yields up for grain sorghum."
Tim Lust, National Grain Sorhgum Producers executive director, said when compared per inch of irrigation, grain sorghum is a great cop. But it needs to be more profitable to be a part of the water solution.
Dale Rodman, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, said we probably won't understand the true value of the Ogallala until we pull the last gallon out of the ground. However, by then the race to bottom will be over.
Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SD: I don't see how you can make that statement when they said exactly what I said. The only difference is they are saying LEMA instead of HPA. There are also regional issues at play. The Ogallala is exclusively under W KS...not C KS and E KS. KS has it's share of enviros in the other 2/3 of the state. But, if you will notice, the Governor said this is a local issue, and we are pro-actively out in front of this. One of the guy's comments is taken out of context. We are NOT asking the state to solve this. We are asking the state to get out of the way. A good example of this...is the DWR had a stupid rule...Use It or Lose It. If you didn't pump your water right for 3 years in a row, you lost it. This was incredibly stupid. For example, years ago older farmers who had flood irrigated and were nearing retirement, didn't want to put in expensive sprinklers. They just wanted to quit irrigating and retire. But, naturally they didn't want to lose their water rights. Another dumb administrative...not legislative...rule was...years ago...establishing use base lines vis a vis future allowed pumping. This was DSI. If you voluntarily conserved, DWR reduced what you were allowed to pump in the future...not exactly a model for conservation. In summary, what the guy meant was we want the state...DWR...to get rid of some of their stupid rules...like Use It or Lose It...that were in direct contradiction to real conservation and preservation of the Ogallala.
The Ogallala is primarily recharged via the Platte River system in NE. If you have ever been thru NE, there are lots of canals which draw water off the Platte...in addition to wells. It's easy to solve the re-charge problem of the Ogallala...just put in dams to hold the water for re-charge instead of letting it run out of the state. But, you run into the real enviro wackos if you propose common sense.
Another problem is trees. These trees were not native 100-200 years ago. But, they have grown up like noxious weeds along rivers, creeks, draws, and tributaries. The amount of water one big cottonwood tree uses is mind boggling. Naturally, if you propose getting rid of the non-native trees, the enviros go ballistic.
The enviros can provide comic relief. I was at one meeting where a enviro girl wanted all the terraces removed. As good stewards of the land we have extensive terracing to minimize soil erosion. She wanted the terraces abolished to increase stream flows. Her thesis was that the trees had encroached cuz the terraces had reduced stream flows that would have kept the trees scoured out. If you propose common sense like keeping the terraces to minimize soil erosion and using chemical controls on the trees...oh no...it has to be natural. Kind of like how they manage...mis-manage Yellow Stone. Can't fight forest fires if lightning started the fire cuz that's natural. Can't manage brucellosis in the buffalo cuz that wouldn't be natural.