USDA allocates $6.5 million for Ogallala Aquifer work

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $6.5 million in the Ogallala Aquifer region this year to help farmers and ranchers conserve billions of gallons of water and improve water quality. Funding will target seven focus areas in five states, including Texas, to support their primary water source and strengthen rural economies.

“This funding support assists conservationists and agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices that conserve water and improve its quality,” said Vilsack. “This work not only expands the viability of the Ogallala Aquifer but also helps producers across the Great Plains strengthen their agricultural operations.”

Underlying the Great Plains in eight states, the Ogallala supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States. It has long been the main water supply for the High Plains’ population and is being depleted at an unsustainable rate.

Through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is directing funding to support targeted, local efforts to improve the quality and availability of this water supply. This year’s work will continue for up to four years and will conserve billions of gallons of water per year, extending the viability of the aquifer for multiple uses, according to NRCS.

This conservation investment builds on $66 million that NRCS has invested in the region through OAI since 2011, which helped farmers and ranchers conserve water on more than 325,000 acres.

In Texas, OAI funds have been used extensively to update irrigation delivery systems to increase efficiencies and to allow the opportunity for reduced irrigation pumping. 

NRCS-Texas plans to transition the initiative to partner with the local groundwater conservation districts to assist producers interested in using efficient irrigation delivery systems, and transition from irrigated crops to non-irrigated. The partners will display water savings at field days and demonstration farms.

“Water is a precious resource, and the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative helps our farmers and ranchers use it wisely,” said Salvador Salinas, Texas state conservationist. “This is especially important in a place like Texas, where drought conditions have prevailed in recent history. We know we can’t change the weather, but we can help producers be ready for it.”

Read the complete NRCS news release.

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