Underlying eight states in America’s Great Plains, the Ogallala Aquifer provides water to nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States, and is the main water supply for people throughout the High Plains. But this million-year-old, 174,000-square-mile reservoir is being depleted at an unsustainable rate.
NRCS launched the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI) in an effort to reduce aquifer water use, improve water quality and enhance the economic viability of croplands and rangelands in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, South Dakota and Wyoming.
How Does OAI Work?
By offering a variety of conservation practices, OAI helps farmers and ranchers use less water, improve water quality and keep croplands and rangelands productive.
NRCS and its partners, which include local conservation districts, state environmental agencies and land grant universities, focus on areas in the aquifer region where specific kinds of conservation projects are needed. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to selected agricultural producers to help them implement new conservation practices and enhancements needed on their operations. Practices include conservation methods that reduce the use of irrigation water, help farmers convert irrigated land to non-irrigated cropland or rangement, and keep nutrients out of ground and surface water.
Funding comes from NRCS' Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program and from partners in the focus areas.
How Does OAI Benefit Producers?
OAI benefits producers by helping them use less water, cut the costs of energy needed to power irrigation systems, use less agricultural chemicals and reduce labor costs, while enhancing their revenues through higher yields and better quality crops. Producers also can benefit from healthier wildlife habitat on their operations.
How Does OAI Benefit the Public?
Conserving water extends the useful life of the aquifer, increases flows in rivers and streams and prevents sediments and nutrients from entering waterways. Actions taken through OAI help maintain the long-term viability of agricultural operations that rely on irrigation and help producers cut the costs associated with using irrigation water and restricted water supplies.
NRCS collaborates with local conservation districts, state environmental agencies and land grant universities to select focus areas and other opportunities for conservation projects.
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