When insanity is driven by greed it suddenly turns to “reason.” That’s what’s been happening as Kansas corn farmers’ latest brainstorm, to build an aqueduct transporting Missouri River water 360 miles across Kansas, has been gaining momentum. According to a just-released U.S. Army Corps of Engineers draft report, the aqueduct would take 20 years to build and cost $18 billion. And then there would be “significantly higher” habitat restoration costs, according to John Grothause, chief of the water planning section for the corps’ Kansas City district. (How one restores marshlands along a flood plain is anyone’s guess.) Kansas Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Larry Powell estimated that the cost to irrigate a hundred acres of corn with aqueduct water would be $90,000. He dared to suggest it might not make a lot of sense to keep feeding corn to cows at that cost. (In my opinion it never made sense: grass-fed beef is healthier for humans. It makes even less sense to turn it into ethanol, which does virtually nothing for the environment.) But who is likely to bear the brunt of the cost? Not farmers, as Powell suggested, but taxpayers is my guess.
In this WBUR 90.9 FM story by Harvest Public Media reporter Luke Runyon, farmers explain why the current High Plains drought has not caused nearly as much havoc as the 1930s drought, although this drought is actually worse. Modern farming methods are to thank, and of course, the Ogallala Aquifer. But the aquifer is dwindling and won’t save farmers for long, unless changes are made to federal farm and ethanol policies. Those policies encourage farmers to grow corn, the thirstiest crop of all. And guess who we feed it to: Not humans, but cars and cows.
Here’s a very intelligent and informative guest editorial in the Austin American-Statesman by Paul Pape – Bastrop County Judge advising that Texans learn from their past depleting the Ogallala Aquifer and not make the same mistake again. Other aquifers are now being mined and even sold off to cities: In this case to Austin in a 3 billion dollar water supply project that will enrich the corporate water developer, Blue Water Systems, and impoverish the ecosystem and future inhabitants of @Burleson County, where the water will be pumped.
No one does as good a job as reporter Brett Walton and Circle of Blue putting world water issues on the map. The latest contribution is an actual map depicting the intensifying crisis facing the Ogallala Aquifer.
NPR. In order to stretch the water out a little bit longer, the farmers in one "intensive groundwater use control area" will reduce withdrawals by twenty percent over the next five years. This is not going to save the aquifer--not by a long shot, but in a society that often encourages individual profit at the expense of the common good, the willingness to exert a little self-control is indeed newsworthy.In short, yes. I think the fact that a few western Kansas farmers have agreed to voluntarily cut back on the amount of water they are taking from the Ogallala Aquifer is newsworthy. So, apparently, do a lot of major news outlets, the most recent being