Great Lakes Compact Goes Into EffectThe Great Lakes, which hold one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water, are now protected under an international agreement. The agreement was signed by President George Bush on Oct. 3, 2008 following its passage by eight state legislatures and a swift ride through the U.S. Congress. A companion agreement with two Canadian provinces takes effect Dec. 8. Conventional wisdom had put passage of the agreement at five to 10 years or more, if ever, but the compact is going into effect barely three years to the date after it was signed by Gov. Jim Doyle and his counterparts in the seven other Great Lakes states, Frank said.
Meanwhile, The Ogallala Aquifer(Also know as the High Plains Aquifer, the largest aquifer in North America), is drying up:
The Ogallala Aquifer: Saving a Vital U.S. Water SourceThe Ogallala Aquifer, the vast underground reservoir that gives life to these fields, is disappearing. In some places, the groundwater is already gone. This is the breadbasket of America—the region that supplies at least one fifth of the total annual U.S. agricultural harvest. If the aquifer goes dry, more than $20 billion worth of food and fiber will vanish from the world’s markets. And scientists say it will take natural processes 6,000 years to refill the reservoir.
Today [Rodger Funk's] community in southern Kansas, 180 miles west of Wichita, is one of the High Plains areas hardest hit by the aquifer’s decline. Groundwater level has dropped 150 feet or more, forcing many farmers to abandon their wells. The cause is obvious, says Mark Rude, executive director of the Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District: overuse. Yearly groundwater withdrawals quintupled between 1949 and 1974. In some places farmers were withdrawing four to six feet a year, while nature was putting back half an inch. In 1975 the overdraft equaled the flow of the Colorado River. Today the Ogallala Aquifer is being depleted at an annual volume equivalent to 18 Colorado Rivers. Although precipitation and river systems are recharging a few parts of the northern aquifer, in most places nature cannot keep up with human demands. Biofuels are the latest enticement to grow corn, which garners higher profits but requires more water than most other crops. Plans to double the number of ethanol production facilities in the High Plains region are driving farmers to increase corn production despite already scarce groundwater.
A senate bill was introduced to try and prevent T. Boone Pickens from pumping the Ogallala dry:
Seliger's Bill Would Protect OgallalaSeliger has filed SB1254 in the Texas Legislature this session, and the future of the High Plains may depend on whether he can get the bill passed. The bill would limit the use of imminent domain by water districts to no more than 75 miles. That would stop Mesa's plans to sell the aquifer to other areas of Texas.