AMARILLO -- Three publications analyzing the water use of the livestock industry in the southern Ogallala Aquifer region have been completed by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialists.
"Water use in the Southern Ogallala Region has greatly exceeded the recharge rate for the past several decades, leading to a steady decline in the aquifer," said Dr. Steve Amosson, Regents Fellow and AgriLife Extension economist in Amarillo.
"This decline and water use in the agricultural sector had many stakeholders questioning whether the economic benefits to the regional economy justified the agricultural operations water use," Amosson said.
"Our studies of the livestock sector in the region are outlined in the three publications covering beef, swine and dairy," he said. "Our findings indicate the direct water use - consumption and cleaning - of these industries have minimal impact on regional water resources, but the indirect water use via the feed consumed is or can be substantial."
"On the other hand, these industries are providing billions of dollars of economic activity and tens of thousands of employment opportunities in the region," Amosson said.
"The objectives of the study, supported by the federally funded Ogallala Aquifer Program, is to evaluate the impacts the various agricultural sectors are having on the Ogallala Aquifer, both in water use and economic impact," he said.
Contributing to the studies are Dr. Bridget Guerrero, former AgriLife Extension program specialist and now a West Texas A&M University assistant professor; Dr. Ted McCollum, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist in Amarillo; and Dr. Ellen Jordan, AgriLife Extension dairy specialist, Dallas.
The Southern Ogallala Region is defined in this study as the 97,000 square miles of the aquifer from the northern border of Kansas to just north of the Midland-Odessa area and includes portions of five states.
The region consists of 19.7 million acres of cropland and more than 6.4 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program; the rest is pastureland. Of the cropland, 7.3 million acres are irrigated and 12.4 million acres are dryland. The primary irrigated crops grown in the region are corn, wheat, cotton and sorghum.
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