The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced it is investing $8.1 million in the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI) to help farmers and ranchers conserve billions of gallons of water annually while strengthening agricultural operations. The Ogallala Aquifer has suffered in recent years from increased periods of drought and declining water resources and experienced a long term decline in groundwater levels, especially in southern parts of the aquifer. “The Ogallala Aquifer Initiative helps landowners build resilience in their farms and ranches and better manage water use in this thirsty region,” said Eric B. Banks, NRCS Kansas State Conservationist. “Since 2011, NRCS has invested $89.5 million in helping more than 1,775 agricultural producers conserve water on 366,000 acres.”
NRCS offers conservation planning assistance to farmers and ranchers throughout the Ogallala to help them develop and implement conservation plans, practices, and activities to reduce water use and manage water more efficiently while maintaining profitable operations. NRCS also offers financial assistance through several farm bill conservation programs to help farmers and ranchers implement new conservation practices and activities.
NRCS supports targeted, local efforts to conserve the quality and quantity of water in nine targeted focus areas through the OAI. These projects use Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding for practices including building soil health by using cover crops and no-till, which allow the soil to hold water longer and buffer roots from higher temperatures; improving the efficiency of irrigation systems; and implementing prescribed grazing to relieve pressure on stressed vegetation.
Kansas has received over $1 million for the OAI and will provide an additional $100,000 from the general EQIP allocation for this effort.
The Ogallala Aquifer is the largest aquifer in the United States and includes nearly all of Nebraska and large sections of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. It is the primary water source for the High Plains region. Covering nearly 174,000 square miles, it supports the production of nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton, and cattle produced in the United States and also supplies 30 percent of all water used for irrigation.
For more information visit the Kansas NRCS Web site www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov/programs or your local U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Service Center. To find a service center near you, check on the Internet at offices.usda.gov. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.