harvesting ceremony – the water problem

The Water Problem: What Makes the Difference?


Ogallala Aquifer Image

The Ogallala Aquifer is the largest aquifer in North America. It covers 174,000 square miles through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota.

 Ogallala Aquifer

The aquifer is a vital source of water to the High Plains, because it supplies 81% of the water used in the High Plains. Most of the water is used for irrigation since 54% of the land within the Ogallala Aquifer region is used for agriculture. The High Plains accounts for 27% of the nation’s irrigated land and is responsible for 19% of the nation’s wheat, 19% of its cotton, 15% of its corn, and 3% of its sorghum. With the loss of the Ogallala Aquifer as a water resource the economy of the High Plains would not survive, causing a tremendous loss to the nations food production, therefore effecting the economy of the nation.

Over Draft / Recharge Rate

The net overdraft rate / net rate of groundwater mining is 54.864 mm/year across the entire aquifer. On average 21.59 mm/year is recharged into the aquifer. The playa lakes provide an important additional source of water for the Ogallala Aquifer, especially in the Southern High Plains. This is because of the small amounts of rainfall in our region; the Playa Lakes are the main source of recharge for the aquifer here. Recharge is mainly through precipitation in the spring and summer months and a small percentage of the rainfall actually reaches the aquifer. The main barrier of recharging the Ogallala Aquifer is the lack of permeability of the soil. In regions, like our own, that are very arid, high evaporation rates prevent the recharge of the aquifer.

 Where the Water Goes

From the pre-developed society when the aquifer was an untapped resource to the year 2000, Texas had depleted the aquifer -124 million acre-feet. Out of all 8 states the depletion is -197 million acre-feet. With Nebraska recharging the aquifer by +4 million acre-feet. The water that is depleted from the aquifer is mainly used for irrigation and evapotranspiration. 94% of the groundwater use is for irrigation which accounts for 15,745 millions of gallons per day of water used for irrigation form the Ogallala and 30% of all the groundwater used in the U.S.


In Texas, groundwater is considered a public resource. If the water is beneath the landowner’s property; they are the right to capture it. This is called the Rule of Capture. The Texas Supreme Court first adopted the Rule-of-Capture in 1904. The landowner owns not only the water that emerges from the ground, but the water in place underground as well. The landowner has the right to pump as much water as he wishes even at the expense of his neighbor. Under the Rule of Capture, a landowner needs no permit to drill a well and pump groundwater, and he may pump as much water as he may beneficially use even if that causes his neighbor’s well to go dry. The Landowner also has the right to sell the water withdrawn from the ground for use at any location. The State of Texas created Ground Water Conservation Districts in 1947 to maintain a balance between protecting the rights of private landowners and the responsibility to protect the water resource. The first district was created in 1951, the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District.

The High Plains Water Conservation District

The High Plains Underground Water Conservation District is charged with the responsibility of conserving, preserving, protecting, and preventing waste of groundwater within its 16-county service area. The 16-county service area includes Bailey, Cochran, Hale, Lamb, Lubbock, Lynn, Parmer, and Swisher Counties, as well as portions of Armstrong, Castro, Crosby, Deaf Smith, Floyd, Hockley, Potter, and Randall Counties. One of the goals of the conservation district is the 50/50 Management Goal, which is the District’s Desired Future Condition of the Ogallala Aquifer, as set forth in the District’s Management Plan, that 50% of the saturated thickness of the Ogallala Aquifer will still be in the Ogallala Aquifer 50 years late.

Lubbock Monthly Information:

  • Current Fiscal Year:
    • Water Use – Gallons: 1,097,661,000
    • Gallons Per Capita Daily: 151
    • Peak Day – Gallons: 44,265,000
    • 5-Year Average
      • Water Use – Gallons: 1,353,142,890
      • Gallons Per Capita Daily: 189
      • Peak Day- Gallons: 54,966,000

Water Supplier Year-to-Date Information:

  • Current Fiscal Year:
    • Water Supplied by:
      • CRMWA: 5,438,362,200 gallons
      • Bailey County: 2,284,679,600 gallons
      • Lake Alan Henry: 1,642,059,000 gallons

Lubbock Year-to-Date Information:

  • Total Water Use – Gallons: 9,365,100,800 gallons
  • Total Water Use – Acre Feet: 28,740
  • Gallons Per Capita Daily: 141

Water Conservation Tips

Bathroom Water Conservation Tips

  • Showers account for 20% of total indoor water use.
  • The replacement of 4.5 gallons per minute showerheads to 2.5 gallons per minute head costs less than $5 and can save 20,000 gallons of water per year.
  • Shorten your showers by a minute or two will save 150 gallons of water per month.
  • Time your showers to fewer than 5 minutes and you will save 1,000 gallons per month.
  • It takes 70 gallons of water to fill a bathtub, so showers are actually more water efficient.
  • Toilet us is nearly 40% of all indoor water use.
  • More than 4.8 billion gallons of water is flushed down toilets each day in the U.S.
  • Conventional toilets use 3.5 to 5 gallons or more of water per flush, but low-flush toilets uses only 1.6 gallons of water or less.
  • When you turn of the water while brushing your teeth, you save 4 gallons per minute, which is up to 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
  • When you turn of the water instead of letting it run to rinse your razor, 3000 gallons of water is save a month.
  • On average, 10 gallons of water per day is lost to leaks.
  • Toilet leaks are silent, be sure to check them once a year.
  • One drip every second ads up to 5 gallons per day.

Kitchen Water Conservation Tips

  • 10 to 20 gallons of water a day can be saved by running the dishwasher only when it is full.
  • Using a machine dishwasher is actually more water efficient than hand washing, especially if you run full loads.
  • Energy Star dishwashers use about 4 gallons of water per load, and even standard machines use only about 6 gallons of water. Hand washing generally uses about 20 gallons of water each day.
  • Using of reusable water bottle every day cuts down on the amount of glasses that would need to be washed.
  • Use the garbage disposal sparingly, saves gallons of water.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  • Install an instant water heater so water doesn’t run while waiting for it to heat, which also reduces energy costs.

Laundry Room Conservation Tips

  • 22% of indoor water use comes from laundry.
  • When doing laundry, math the water level to the size of the load.
  • Washing dark clothes in cold water saves water and energy, and helps your clothes retain their color.
  • Most front-loading machines are energy and water efficient, using 20 gallons a load. While most top-loading machines use 40 gallons per load.
  • Have a plumber re-route your greywater to trees and plants rather than the sewer line.

Outdoor Conservation Tips

  • Nationally, law care accounts for about 32% of the total residential outdoor use.
  • Xeriscape landscaping is an innovative, comprehensive approach to landscaping for water conservation.
  • Choose the right climate friendly plants. These plants will require less water which will lower the amount of maintenance needed to take care of your yard.
  • Low water use plants can save up to 550 gallons of water each year.
  • Cycle irrigation provides the right amount of water at the right time and place for optimal growth.
  • Low precipitation rate sprinklers that have better distribution uniformity and drip irrigation systems are more water efficient ways to landscape.
  • A running hose can discharge up to 10 gallons of water per minute. Remember to turn it off!
  • Rainwater harvesting allows the nature to work for you. Collecting rainwater and using that for lawn care reduces the use of water provided by the city. It is healthier and cleaner, as well as completely free.
  • Minimize evaporation by watering lawns in the early morning when temperatures are cooler and the wind is lighter.

I apologize for how much information I provided, and this is just a summary of all the research that I did for Ogallala Commons. I love my internship and learned so much about the Ogallala Aquifer. The thing I enjoyed most about my internship is the fact that I felt empowered by the information that I was learning about the Aquifer. Not only that, but that I was given the ability to help spread this information to the people in the Ogallala region. I feel that through this initiative that I am helping Ogallala Commons with that I am helping make a difference in the conservation of the aquifer and the survival of the region and the people in its communties. One of my favorite experiences during my internship was my harvesting ceremony. I did most of my work alone, in the library or at home, so I really enjoyed being able to spread my knowledge to people face-to-face about the aquifer. It made it more enjoyable how engaged everyone with the Heart of Lubbock Community Garden Association was and all the questions they asked, showing their interest and concern about the water crisis in the Plains and the Ogallala Aquifer.

I hope you enjoyed all the information I have provided and learned a few things. Feel free to email me any question you might have about my research at shelby.thibodeaux@ttu.edu.

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