Nebraska will receive a large chunk of federal money going to help preserve the Ogallala Aquifer.
The United States Department of Agriculture will spend eight million dollars to reduce use of the aquifer, improve its water quality, and enhance the economic viability of the agricultural land it waters. The money comes through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Nebraska State Conservationist Craig Derickson says efforts in Nebraska will concentrate on the Central Platte, Little Blue, the Middle Republican, and Upper Big Blue Natural Resources Districts.
The Ogallala Aquifer is the largest aquifer in the United States, running underneath most of Nebraska and spreading to parts of seven other states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. It covers 174,000 square miles and is the primary water source for the High Plains region.
Derickson says the initiative in Nebraska will concentrate on reducing the amount of the Ogallala used for irrigation.
“Irrigation out of the Ogallala represents about a third of all of the water pumped for irrigation in the United,” Derickson tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate WNAX. “So, it’s a very significant and valuable resource for us.”
Derickson calls the Ogallala a significant and valuable resource for Nebraska.
The USDA initiative will concentrate on using less water from the Ogallala for irrigation, but it also will fund projects to plant cover crops and use no-till to enhance soil health, allowing soil to hold water longer and buffer roots from high temperatures. Prescribed grazing can be used to relieve pressure on stressed pastures. Other projects hope to reduce the need for irrigation from the Ogallala.
Jerry Oster, WNAX, contributed to this report.