July 14, 2010
Everyone on the High Plains knows about the troubles of the Ogallala Aquifer. Five trillion gallons get pumped out each year to irrigate about a third of the nation’s food and fiber, according to William Ashworth’s 2006 in-depth book about the aquifer, Ogallala Blue. With the aquifer declining year by year, how long can it last?
Rural people understand the value of that water more than city folks, even on the High Plains. Texas Tech University economists took a look at the aquifer’s effect on the northern Panhandle area of Texas. They found that in the 26-county region centered on Amarillo, irrigation contributes $1.6 billion yearly to the local economy and accounts for 16,650 jobs. Two-thirds of that money comes from corn, $343 million from wheat, $165 million from cotton, and $36 million from sorghum.
The study does not include the Lubbock area, where more than 3 million acres of cotton grows, much of it irrigated.