Every Last Drop


Patrick Warminski knows about water. After all, the future of his farm depends on it.

"I'm young. I want to farm for a lot more years. I want to try to make sure I have water left, not only for me, but my kids or the neighbors or whatever. So you know, that's a tough question on whether or not we're going to have water for a long time," Warminski, who farms in Carson County said. 

There's much more to Warminski's land than meets the eye. In fact, the latest additions are buried, 15 inches beneath the ground. Warminski is one of a small, but growing number of farmers using drip irrgation. Drip tape is put in beneath the soil, and it drips .17 gallons of water.

So is this new type of irrigation saving water? Warminski says he doesn't know yet. It's too new for him to tell, but he's hopeful that it will prove to be more efficient.

It's no secret, irrigated farming in the Panhandle is changing.

"These questions are being asked every day in the coffee shop, at the co-op, and these people are very very interested in a resolution to this question and know that ultimately, we will get to a point where there's quite a lot less irrigated agriculture," Steve Evett, Soil Research Scientist with the local USDA said. 

Evett says according to USDA numbers, irrigated agriculture uses more than 80% of the groundwater in our area. However, farmers will be the first to tell you, they don't want to waste water.

"Ultimately, you know, we're, the farmers are being preemptive with the water conservation districts and everything. And we're trying to do what we can these days to make the water last as long as we can," Mark Urbanczyk, another Carson County farmer said. 

So just how long will the water last?

That's up for debate. Here in the City of Amarillo, estimates say at least 175 years.

That may seem like a lot, but it's only a few generations.

"Are we responsible for the next three or four generations water? My vote is yes," Emmett Autrey, Director of Utilities for the City of Amarillo said. 

Autrey says the responsibility is as much with the cities as it is with area industry.

"We could look at improving our lawns, our landscaping. The Panhandle economy runs on agriculture and oil. That's the bottom line," Autrey said. 

So what about restrictions? For the time being, the City of Amarillo maintains voluntary programs are working just fine. When it comes to agriculture, changes could be on the horizon, with concern that local groundwater districts will have less authority. 

"Local control to the districts is very important, and it comes back to the same issue. We feel like we've got a better handle on our situation up here, than the folks downstate," C.E. Williams, General Manager of the Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District said.

The state created these water conservation districts decades ago to locally monitor water use.

With the future uncertain, it's a situation that has many in the Panhandle wondering about water.

"Just need to pray for rain," Urbanczyk said. 

Praying for rain, and seeking new ways to make the water we have last.

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