Is a National Aquifer Depletion Crisis on the Horizon? How Rainwater Harvesting Can Help

In the past few years, farmers in many parts of the United States have started to become concerned about the depletion of one of their most necessary natural resources – groundwater.

Farmers in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma (traditionally fertile centers of the U.S.) use modern tools to determine if their groundwater supply is steady and reliable. Text alerts notify farmers when water pressure is low.

Why We Should Be Concerned

Families who have farmed for generations have discovered that their wells are sucking air, not operating as well as before.

These concerns indicate a rising problem with groundwater, or aquifer, depletion. An aquifer is an underground layer of rock or materials, (like gravel, sand and silt), where groundwater can be extracted using a well.

Expansive areas like the High Plains Aquifer (found under eight states extending from South Dakota to Texas) are the backbone to one of the world’s most productive farming regions. The region powered by the High Plains Aquifer is responsible for 20% of the country’s production of corn, wheat and cattle.

Unfortunately in recent years more and more farmers in areas like the plains are reporting a problem – their supply of groundwater is running dry.

The U.S. Department of the Interior reports that groundwater is the source of drinking water for roughly half of the American population. Groundwater also provides more than 50 billion gallons per day for agricultural needs, such as commercial farming operations.

However, a number of areas across the United States are experiencing a shortage of groundwater, simply because there isn’t enough to go around.

Essentially, our underground water supply is similar to a bank account. Once multiple operations continue to draw resources from the account, the supply depletes, with not enough new sources coming in.

It’s certainly an issue in the High Plains Aquifer, where a number of farmers in western Kansas report that the groundwater supply has been exhausted. But it’s also an issue in other parts of the country as well.

Drought-ravaged California, the Gulf Coastal Plain, the farmland of the Mississippi River Valley, the dry Southwest, and even the green Southeast have all reported plummeting groundwater levels in the past few years, indicating the start of a nationwide problem.

A Troubling Study

A recent study conducted by USA Today and The Desert Sun took as closer look at the problem by examining two decades of measurement data from more than 32,000 wells across the country.

The study found that water levels have declined about 64% nationally. The average decline in wells has been more than 10 feet. In some regions, the water table dropped more than 100 feet during the two decades of data, or more than 5 feet per year.

Clearly, the dwindling supply of our groundwater is a national problem that is poised to become a larger issue, but farmers are taking new steps to protect their operations.

Water is crucial for all aspects of agricultural operations – from irrigation, to feeding cattle, to mixing and applying fertilizer. One way to ensure a steady water supply across the board is to look up – not down – for a reliable source.

How We Can All Help Prevent a National Crisis

A rainwater harvesting system can do a world of good, for both individuals and the U.S. Considering that the aquifer depletion crisis stems from too many people “overdrawing” from the groundwater resources, using a rainwater harvest system can take a little pressure off the underground supply.

A rainwater harvesting system can work for a wide range of operations, too. From families who want to grow and produce their own food, to larger operations that depend on a steady supply of water to succeed, rainwater-harvesting systems can come in many forms to address water needs of all sizes.

It’s a solution that more and more folks are turning to globally, as safe water becomes a precious commodity. Effective in areas where pollutants in the soil are a problem, the popularity of harvesting rainwater is growing as people are looking for a solution to an international water problem.

Aquifers all across the country are becoming overstressed. It’s an issue that’s starting to gain national attention. Though areas in the plains have been affected for years, it’s only recently that the problem has spread to other corners of the country, creating national awareness.

But with smart environmental choices and cutting edge rainwater harvest systems becoming readily available, we can hopefully address declining aquifer supply before it becomes an irreversible crisis.

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Article Name
Is a National Aquifer Depletion Crisis on the Horizon? How Rainwater Harvesting Can Help
Description
Groundwater is one of the country’s most important resources, but depletion is happening at an alarming rate. Here’s a look at how rainwater harvesting can help.
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