The Ogallala Aquifer is the major component of the High Plains Aquifer system in the central part of the United States, between the Rockies and the Mississippi River system. This aquifer has provided the primary source of irrigation water for America’s breadbasket since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Current research shows that the Ogallala is being depleted much faster than it is being recharged by rainfall or snowmelt in the region, including the east slope of the Rockies .
Dr. Kevin Mulligan, Associate Professor of Economics and Geography and Director of the, Center for Geospatial Technology at Texas Tech University, has been a leading voice in this research. Mulligan and his students have mapped the aquifer extensively, discovering that not only is it shallower in places than people originally thought, it is also being drawn down (often at a rate of 800 gallons a minute) faster than anticipated. In fact, they have determined that in many spots industry will run out of useable water (i.e., 30 ft of water or less) not by the end of the century, as predicted, but by 2030 – only twenty years from now. “This will certainly mean the end of pivot irrigation in the region,” he announced.