Sustainable Living Guide Contributions, Part Three of Four – Sustaining Our Water Resources

Week 3 Assignment 2: Ogallala Aquifer

Sustainable Living Guide Contributions, Part Three of Four:

Sustaining Our Water Resources

The Ogallala Aquifer, what is it and what does it do for us? “The Ogallala Aquifer is a vast geologic formation that sprawls underneath parts of eight states from South Dakota to Texas” (Peterson, Marsh, Williams, 2003, para.1). The Ogallala Aquifer is also known as the High Plains aquifer. The technology to drill deep enough to get the water out of the aquifer was unavailable until after WWII, at which time the high plans then turned into one of the most productive regions in the world agriculturally. This new supply of water gave rise to many new farms and a very productive agricultural area without any real thought to the water supply being limited. This ties directly into our theme this week of should water be privatized, and is there enough monitoring of how much water is extracted from aquifers like the Ogallala Aquifer vs the amount of water going back into it.

We can see that being able to extract water from these deep underground aquifers has a significant impact on our physical world. The transformation of the high plains into a highly productive agricultural area drastically changed the physical world we live in and completely redid the landscape of that area. This is a challenge for environmental sustainability because all those farms are in operation, the product produced by that region is now relied upon, and the landowners expect to be able to operate their business the way they always have. According to McGuire (as cited in USGS, 2017) “Change in storage for the 2013 to 2015 comparison period was a decline of 10.7 million acre-feet, which is about 30 percent of the change in recoverable water in storage calculated for the 2011 to 2013 comparison period”. We can see that water is being removed from the Aquifer but is not being replenished at the same rate. It is impossible to continue to pump that much water out of the Aquifer without long-term negative results. The amount of water available in the Aquifer is proof of this.

These are obstacles that can be over come by using methods on both the individual level and the national level. Individuals can be more conservative with their water usage by installing lo-flow sinks, toilets, and appliances. According to Bensel-Turk (2014), “This is all reassuring- until you remember that irrigated agriculture accounts for 70 percent of the fresh water used by humans” (pg. 5.4). Agriculture uses most of our fresh water supply so that is where we need to focus our water conservation efforts the most to achieve the largest gains. On a national level using improved irrigating techniques for farming would yield the largest positive results. An example of this would be the government subsidizing the installation of advanced irrigation systems for farmers. Reducing the amount of water we use as a nation would help with environmental sustainability not only in the Ogallala Aquifer, but in all aquifers and in our local bio diverse areas across the nation.


Bensel, T. and Turk, J. (2014). Contemporary Environmental Issues. (2nd Ed). Retrieved from

Peterson, J. Marsh, T. and Williams, J. (2003). Conserving the Ogallala Aquifer: Efficiency, Equity, and Moral Motives. Choices: The Magazine of Food, Farm & Resource Issues, Volume 18 (Issue 1), p.15-18. Retrieved from

USGS. (2017). USGS: High Plains Aquifer Groundwater Levels Continue to Decline. Retrieved from

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