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most of western Texas was grassland. When agriculture arrived, it was primarily 'dryland' farming - meaning grasses and cereal plants grown without irrigation - and grazing land for livestock. People dug their wells to 30 or 40 feet deep.

When oil was discovered, the methane pressure was high enough to blow it out of the ground at first. Then simple beam pumps sufficed. After further removal, the operators had to pump water into the well to displace the oil upwards. The mineral companies had also discovered elemental sulfur deposits on top of 'salt domes'. To extract it, they heated water and pumped it into the deposits to sort-of melt it. In both cases the contaminated water that came out of the ground was evaporated by the Texas dry heat. Then cotton moved west, too, which required heavy irrigation. Nowadays the average water table is closer to 600 feet deep.

The Ogallala aquifer is one of the largest 'fossil water' impoundments in the world, and it underlies the Plains states from Alberta almost to Mexico. Renewable groundwater and surface waters are almost negligible nowadays until you reach the Platte and the Missouri which are fed by the glaciers of the Rocky Mountains (which are reduced year-on-year. Mirta and I were in Glacier National Park last August. Pretty soon it will be called the Former Glacier N.P.). The Ogallala has been tapped for the cornfields and such for some years now. It's average volume is falling, because there is no rapid re-charge system for it. In other words water use is unsustainable in the 'Breadbasket' of the U.S.A.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2012 at 05:02:39 PM EST

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