Ogallala Aquifer: Sustainability Issues and Challenges Don Ethridge Water Center College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Texas Tech University Presented at Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Environmental Fair Session on Water Policy May 1, 2007 Austin, Texas
Outline • Aquifer characteristics that impact policy • Current policies and future water projections • Research with policy relevance • Appropriate policy goals
Ogallala facts • Underlies 117 million acres of land • Large alluvial formation sealed at bottom, saturated with water • Texas portion contains about 400 million acre feet of water * 90% of withdrawals for irrigation * Shifting toward feedlots, dairies, municipal use, ethanol • Recharge rate 1-2 inches/ year
Sustainability • With renewable water resources- means coordinating long-range water withdrawals with recharge • With non-renewable resources- “managed depletion.” *Extending useful life * Using for maximum social benefit • Both approaches require that good “targets” be defined
Current Policies • Groundwater conservation districts have regulatory authority. • Proliferation of districts since SB2 • Approaches taken to date differ, but TWDB requiring coordination • Setting of goals by water planning groups underway.
Current policies (cont.) • Past pattern - rely on technical efficiency to achieve conservation, which has made an impact. • Will this approach be sufficient for future targets? • Depends on policy goals – but * Additional Efficiency much harder * Efficiency does not convert directly to conservation.
Policy Needs • Define desired future water situation • Determine policy options for reaching it • Select options • TWDB requires regional planning groups to do (1) and (3). • Answer to (1) and (2) should employ most reliable scientific and economic analysis that can be achieved • Best answer to (3) requires blending of economic, political, legal considerations.
College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Water Center web sitehttp://www.depts.ttu.edu/casnr/water Texas Tech University Water Initiative web site http://www.texastech.edu/water