Monday, June 23, 2008

The Coming Rape Of The Ogallala Aquifer

From Wikipedia:

The Ogallala Aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, is a vast yet shallow underground water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States. One of the world's largest aquifers, it lies under about 174,000 mi² (450,000 km²) in portions of the eight states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. It was named in 1899 by N.H. Darton from its type locality near the town of Ogallala, Nebraska. About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States overlies this aquifer system, which yields about 30 percent of the nation's ground water used for irrigation. In addition, the aquifer system provides drinking water to 82 percent of the people who live within the aquifer boundary.

The Ogallala Aquifer is a critical water resource to the High Plains area of Texas. It not only supplies drinking water to many of it's citizens, but it is the life-blood of High Plains farming. This is a semi-arid section of Texas and most of the farms need irrigation water from the aquifer to exist.

The aquifer is already showing signs of being in trouble. Since the 1950's, around 9-10% of the aquifers water has been depleted. Normally, aquifers are sources of water that can be replenished by rainfall. But the Ogallala is a bit different. Because it is in a semi-arid region and has steady winds, much surface water is evaporated before it can filter far into the soil. Much of the region is also covered with caliche (a clay-like soil) that is almost impermeable.

That means the Ogallala Aquifer replenishes itself much slower than most aquifers, and accounts for the depletion since the 1950's when large-scale irragation was introduced. There are some who say if the water in the aquifer is not conserved, it could be depleted in as little as another 25 years. But now there is a huge new threat coming to the aquifer.

A few months ago, oilman T. Boone Pickens created a new water district on 8 acres of his land near Pampa in the Texas Panhandle. Since you had to live within the proposed district to vote on it's creation, the district was created by less than 10 voters (all of them employees of Pickens). The water district gives him the right of eminent domain. He can now force landowners to let him have the land on which he plans to build a huge pipeline (and electrical transmission lines).

Pickens plans to sell water from the Ogallala Aquifer to the Dallas area. He will pump enough water to fill a pipeline 9 feet in diameter. And it's all legal. State law allows him to pump all the water he can as long as it comes from under his land.

The sad part is that while he's only pumping the water from underneath his land, he will be pumping so much that it will lower the level of the aquifer in general. That means his 8 acre water district can theoretically empty the entire aquifer.

Pickens told Business Week, "All I'm doing is selling surplus water." The problem with that is in a semi-arid area like the high plains, there is no such thing as "surplus water".

It's not bad enough that there's a radioactive waste dump located in Andrews County on the southwestern edge of the Ogallala Aquifer, but now we have a rich oilman that wants to sell the aquifer's water to Dallas. I'm surprised that there hasn't been more organized opposition on the High Plains to both of these proposals.

If something is not done about this, we may soon find that the Panhandle doesn't have enough water to support its population. Doesn't Texas have enough desert already? Do we need to turn the Panhandle into just more Texas desert?


  1. T Boone is going to drink all our milkshakes. :)

    I'm optimistic he won't be successful.

  2. I have to agree with you on this one. This idiot has spent a fortune over the years trying to do this just so he can make another fortune.

    Texas has some ancient laws regarding water that while good in the 1800's need desparate reworking today.

    I've often thought idiots like T.B.P. should team with the insurance companies and other investors, build these giant pipelines from various areas of the Missouri, Mississippi and other river that often flood then pump that excess water to here and other dry areas. While useless most years, just the cost of damage due to the current flooding could could probably pay for these pipelines. Meridith could be filled overnight.

    On the other hand you have to think about the real causes of these kinds of theft. The rape of the entire earth. Climate change, rainforest destruction, depletion of all natural resources, extinxtion of various species of life, pollution of all kinds. All are because of to many people in this world. If we don't reduce the population growth, or at least stabilize it this earth will take care of the problem itself. It will mean more war more stavation and more disease.

  3. I'm shocked. We finally agree on something.
    Good comment too. I can't find a single thing in it to argue with.

  4. Eminent domain. There’s that prettified phrase again. It is legal theft of land and Texas is rampant with it. Not only will eminent domain allow his theft of land, but it will make him even more disgustingly wealthy from the reselling of easement rights to entities like telephone/telecom companies, if he so chooses.

    Water is the new gold. Texas has one of the highest rates of influx of people moving into an area already facing water challenges from development.

    My advice to any who will listen is to install rainwater catch systems now. It isn’t that expensive and the main infrastructure needed is a slanted roof with a good-sized holding tank for the rain catch. Mother nature seems to be giving us weather extremes which will mean years of drought and years of flood. In Texas, particularly in the Panhandle, it makes sense to take advantage of the extreme, if infrequent rainstorms to catch rainwater for use in the following drought. Depending on aquifers that aren’t being protected from the all-mighty development dollar is foolish.

    Work for political change, yes…but be practical and invest in your own long-term well-being by preparing now for what is coming our way.

    They started coming after our water in Bexar county about ten years ago. We received a letter from the powers that be that people living out in the county would be required to register our private wells voluntarily. All of my neighbors laughed at the letter and refused to comply with what would be a first step towards privatizing all water.

    At the same time they were coming after private wells, they made no effort to protect that part of Bexar county that is a recharge zone for the Edwards aquifer. They are now left with only one pristine area near Lakehills in the San Geronamo creek area with its resultant effect on the purity of the aquifer. Already a developer is attempting to put in 3500 homes on top of this environmentally sensitive area.

    The stupidity and the greed are astounding.

    One thing you might look into:

    I remember catfish farmers who were pumping unreal quantities of water in a commercial fish farm somewhere in Texas. They were forced to shutdown operations because of the damage he was doing to water supplies and the downstream pollution he was causing. Perhaps that case could be used in a precedence for stopping the rape of the aquifer.

    Sorry...that's all I can come up with for now. I've lost every single battle against Texas eminent domain. This area of research is the only thing I can offer that might lead somewhere.


  5. -Sorry...that's all I can come up with for now. I've lost every single battle against Texas eminent domain.-

    You can thank Clintons lib SC for that.

  6. Get real CT! You know it's not liberals letting the corporations have their way. It seems to me that both Texas and the nation have been ruled by right-wingers for the last few years.

  7. Ya know... I hate to have to defend the Clintons right now. I'm pretty disappointed in both of them...BUT!

    Not even in the wildest stretch of neocon imagination were the Clintons in any way responsible for the two Texas homesteads I was forced to leave. The first homestead was lost to county officials unwilling to curtail development in a flood prone area of Bexar county. It was easier for them to just buy us out than make the developers behave in an environmentally responsible manner. Sell or we'll condemn and take with eminent domain. Big choice there. The taxpayers will continue to pay for the greed of those developers from now on as that area will forever flood and is full of new homes directly in the path of the next 100 year flood that now happens every other year and has been so bad that new flood plains had to be redrawn. But, hey...the rich developers made their money and are long gone.

    The second homestead was lost when the LCRA (Lower Colorado River Authority) stole an easement to supply high power electricity to a community of four thousand people. What do ya know... a developer needed to put in 3500 homes, so they stole land from people living in the small community.

    So, Celticperson... TEXAS politicians...TEXAS greed driven public policy...What part of ANY of that was poor ole' Bill Clinton's fault? I understand that some folks will claim ole' Bill was actually on the grassy knoll but somebody better start talking about some reality soon. This country can't take much more of knee-jerk partisan rhetoric.

    Have a real nice day, Sugar.


  8. -What part of ANY of that was poor ole' Bill Clinton's fault?-

    If you check most in the majority opinion were appointed by Clinton.

    -Stevens was joined in the majority by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.- The rest were also liberal appointments.

    Those against were conservative.

    -O'Connor was joined in her dissent by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. They wrote that the majority had tilted in favor of those with "disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."-

    Coservatives voted against big cop's libs voted for them. It's law forever now. It has little to do with any state.


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