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Ogallala Aquifer - Admission/Application Essay Example

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The Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest aquifers in the world, underlies 225,000 square miles beneath the Great Plains, especially Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma. It yields the United States’ 30 percent of ground water that goes into irrigation,…
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Ogallala Aquifer Ogallala Aquifer The Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest aquifers in the world, underlies 225,000 square miles beneath the Great Plains, especially Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma. It yields the United States’ 30 percent of ground water that goes into irrigation, and approximately 27 percent of the nation’s irrigated land overlies the aquifer (Zabarenko, 2013). However, as the Ogallala Aquifer depletes due to excessive water being pumped, the Great Plains’ rural economy is being threatened. As one of the world’s most diversified and unique agricultural areas and also characterized by hot summer weather and little rainfall, the Texas Panhandle is representative of typical semiarid regions. 26 of Texas Panhandle’s counties are dependent on the Ogallala Aquifer’s water sources for economic development. But, as the Ogallala’s water levels decline, agriculture in the region, as well as the rural communities, are forced to adjust to new economic realities presented by reduced agricultural productivity, availability of community services, revenue and lower tax revenues.
The aquifer’s use started at the onset of the 20th century, with the dependence on it increasing steadily from World War II and surpassing its natural rate of recharge. The pumping of groundwater at a rate faster than it is recharged has had negative effects on the people who use it as well the environment. Most significantly, the water table is lowered; costs for the user are increased; water in lakes and streams is reduced; land subsidence occurs; and water quality deteriorates. Lowering of the water table, below which there is water saturation on the ground, is the severest consequence of excessive pumping of groundwater. In order to withdraw water from the ground, it has to be pumped from wells that reach beyond, or below, the water table. In the event that levels of ground water decline too far, the wells will either have to be deepened, new wells drilled or, at the least, make attempts to lower the pumps (Zabarenko, 2013).
Another impact is that with increasing water depths, it becomes compulsory to lift the water higher so as to reach the surface of land. If pumps are the means of lifting the water, rather than artesian wells, then more energy will be needed to operate the pumps, making use of wells prohibitively costly. Then, in terms of reduction of water in lakes and streams, there are ore interactions with ground water than is generally understood. A large amount of the water that flows in rivers comes from groundwater seepage into streambeds. Groundwater, in most of the climatic and physiographic settings, contributes to streams (Zabarenko, 2013). Pumping of groundwater alters the way it moves between the aquifer and stream, wetland or lake. This is either by intercepting its flow that is discharged into the body of surface water under natural conditions or increasing water movement rates into an aquifer from surface-water bodies. In another perspective, land subsidence is caused by the below-ground loss of support. When the soil is deprived of water, it collapses, compresses and drops. Therefore, with the depletion of water level in the Ogallala Aquifer, more land subsidence takes place. This poses a threat to water quality in the form of contamination brought about by the intrusion of saltwater.
Zabarenko, D. (2013). Drop in the US underground water levels has accelerated: USGS. Washington: Reuters. Read More
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