of special note USDA Invests $6.5 Million To Help Conserve Water, Improve Water Quality in Ogallala Aquifer Region The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing RUMBLES SEPTEMBER 2015 | 39 $6.5 million in the Ogallala Aquifer region this year to help farmers and ranchers conserve billions of gallons of water and improve water quality. Funding will be targeted to seven focus areas to support their primary water source and strengthen rural economies. “This funding assists conservationists and agricultural produc-ers in planning and implementing conservation practices that conserve water and improve water quality,” said USDA Secre-tary Tom Vilsack. “This work not only expands the viability of the Ogallala Aquifer but also helps producers across the Great Plains strengthen their agricultural operations.” Underlying the Great Plains in eight states, the Ogallala sup-ports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton, and cattle produced in the United States. It has long been the main water supply for the High Plains’ population and is being depleted at an unsustainable rate. The reservoir was created more than a million years ago through geologic action and covers about 174,000 square miles, mainly in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas (also known as the High Plains). The aquifer also covers part of South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is directing funding in fiscal 2015 to support targeted, local efforts to improve the quality and availability of this vital water supply. This year’s work is planned in seven focus areas in five states and will continue for up to four years. It will conserve billions of gal-lons of water per year, extending the viability of the aquifer for multiple uses. This conservation investment builds on $66 mil-lion that NRCS has invested through OAI since 2011, which helped farmers and ranchers conserve water on more than 325,000 acres. Vilsack noted that much of the funding invested by USDA has been matched or supplemented by individual producers. The fiscal 2015 focus areas include: • Northern High Plains ground water basin in Colorado: NRCS will focus on helping producers install new technologies on irrigated operations to more efficiently use water. These technologies include weather stations, sensors, and telem-etry for soil moisture and nutrients and advanced irrigation systems. Water and conservation districts are also develop-ing incentive programs for producers. This conservation work will conserve 2.1 billion gallons of water over four years. • Priority areas in eastern New Mexico: NRCS will work with producers to convert irrigated cropland to dryland crop-ping systems and restore grasslands. NRCS will work with producers to reduce pumping on 1,190 acres each year over four years. This conservation work will conserve 1.56 bil-lion gallons of water over four years, helping ensure water for agricultural lands, cities like Clovis and Portales, New Mexico, and Cannon Air Force Base. Visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/ newsroom/releases/?cid=nrcseprd350815 to see a full list of focus areas. For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs. usda.gov/GetStarted or a local USDA service center.
RUMBLES - September 2015
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