Sen. Moran: USDA to Invest $6.5 Million in Ogallala Aquifer Region to Help Conserve Water, Improve Water Quality

36 Kansas Counties impacted by investment to help protect and improve Ogallala Aquifer

WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 15, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies – today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $6.5 million in the Ogallala Aquifer region this year to help conserve billions of gallons of water and improve water quality. This funding will be targeted to seven priority areas in five states including Kansas to support their primary water source and strengthen rural economies. Parts of 36 Kansas counties are within the state’s targeted priority area.

“Water is the lifeblood of Kansas communities and our state’s farm economy, and we need to do all we can to protect it for future generations,” said Sen. Jerry Moran. “This investment will help protect and improve Ogallala Aquifer water quality while also helping farmers and ranchers find additional methods to reduce water usage without impacting production.”

The Ogallala Aquifer has long been the main water supply for communities, businesses, homes and agriculture production in the high plains region of the United States, but it is being depleted at an unsustainable rate. This region includes eight states – Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. The aquifer lies beneath 174,000 square miles of land, an area more than five times greater than the world’s largest freshwater lake and over 150 percent larger than the surface area of all five Great Lakes combined.

Through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is directing funding in fiscal year 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 priority areas in five states and will continue for up to four years. It will conserve billions of gallons of water per year, extending the viability of the aquifer for multiple uses. This conservation investment builds on $66 million that NRCS has invested through OAI since 2011, which helped farmers and ranchers conserve water on more than 325,000 acres. USDA notes that much of the funding invested by USDA has been matched or supplemented by individual producers.

The fiscal 2015 priority areas include parts of 36 counties including: Cheyenne, Rawlins, Decatur, Norton, Phillips, Jewell, Republic, Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan, Wallace, Greeley, Wichita, Scott, Lane, Barton, McPherson, Hamilton, Kearny, Finney, Hodgeman, Pawnee, Stafford, Reno, Harvey, Sedgwick, Stanton, Grant, Haskell, Gray, Ford, Edwards, Pratt, Kiowa, Morton and Stevens counties.

In Kansas’ high priority areas, NRCS will work with producers to reconvert irrigated cropland to dryland farming. The state identified these areas in the Kansas Water Plan as Priority Ground Water Decline and Quick Response Areas, meaning they are the ones most in need and where conservation can have the biggest impact on recharging the aquifer. The conservation work is expected to conserve 1.8 billion gallons of water over four years.

Click here to see a full list of priority areas.

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