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Kansas Making Moves To Save The Ogallala Aquifer

The Ogallala Aquifer is part of the High Plains Aquifer System, depicted on this map from the Kansas Geological Survey.

Gov. Sam Brownback visited western Kansas on Tuesday to tout that farming with less water from the Ogallala Aquifer is viable.

Farmers in a 99-square-mile area of Sheridan County have managed to cut their irrigation by more than 20 percent over the last four years, and they're still just as profitable as their neighbors who haven’t cut back like that. Jim Butler of the Kansas Geological Survey says it could extend the life of the Ogallala.

“Reductions on the order of, say, 25 percent in average annual pumping would lead to, on average, stable water levels across the aquifer for the next one to two decades,” Butler says.

What’s made the difference is that farmers are planting less corn, and more crops that don’t require as much water. They’re also using sensors to tell exactly when a field needs more water.