USDA provides $8 million to prevent aquifer depletion

Conservation efforts are increasing amidst fears of stress on US groundwater sources.

The United States Department of Agriculture has said it plans to invest $8 million to mitigate the effects of drought on the largest aquifer in the US.

The Ogallala Aquifer is the primary water source for the High Plains region of the US, often referred to as the nation’s ‘bread basket,’ and covers 174,000 square miles in eight states.

According to the release, the aquifer’s overall water level dropped by 36 million acre-feet between 2011 and 2013.

The funding will go to the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative, which works to help farmers and ranchers conserve water through improvements to irrigation systems, improving farming practices to improve water retention of the soil and changing grazing practices to decrease pressure on stressed vegetation. New projects from the additional funding will include conservation efforts in Nebraska and Oklahoma that draw heavily from the aquifer.

The effort to maintain the Ogallala Aquifer comes as the American West grapples with a historic drought that has seen farmers, particularly in California, turn to groundwater sources for irrigation, stressing aquifers throughout the region.

In July of this year, Bloomberg Business Week reported that 30 percent of the aquifer’s water had been pumped, with an additional 39 percent expected to be used in the next half-century.