Thursday, November 15, 2007

Boone Pickens and the Ogallala Aquifer

Boone Pickens, a wealthy oil tycoon who has donated $165 million to Oklahoma State, admitted recently that he sees the validity in Peak Oil and recognizes that demand far exceeds the declining world supply of oil when he was interviewed during the Oklahoma State versus Kansas football game last weekend. Ironically, when asked about a water crisis in Texas, Boone Pickens says he foresees the construction of a massive pipeline bringing water from the Texas panhandle to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and other cities in Texas. The only water located in the Texas panhandle lies underground in the Ogallala aquifer, which extends from Nebraska to Texas.

Primarily used for agriculture, the aquifer loses several feet of water every year, most of which isn’t replenished. Parts of the aquifer have already dropped so much that independent farmers can no longer afford the fuel costs to pump out the water. Rivers and streams in western Kansas, particularly Wallace County, run dry during much of the year now. The Smoky Hill River, which once ran adjacent to Fort Wallace, has so little water now that Cedar Bluff Reservoir, located south of WaKeeney, has experienced a significant reduction in size. Experts foresee the aquifer running dry throughout the Great Plains in twenty years.

If Boone plans on pumping massive quantities of water from the aquifer, it will run dry at a much more alarming rate. Efforts in Texas have been undertaken to thwart Boone’s outlandish and irresponsible plan to deplete the aquifer. See the following link for more information.

Any one who lives in this area should be outraged by schemes that allow someone to profit from the limited natural resources in this area. The Great Plains is so fragile an ecosystem that it cannot sustain life and renew itself annually if its water is drained for profit and if its ground is polluted by the pesticides applied to corn and wheat and the huge feedlots owned and operated by corporations indifferent to the land and the quality of life in this region.

Those people living in eastern Kansas believe that the Flint Hills are absolutely beautiful while the remainder of the state to the west of, say, Junction City, is flat and lacking in natural beauty. That same ignorance and misconception is applied to the whole of the Great Plains. It takes a keen eye to appreciate the area west of the 98th meridian. Some of us know its mystery and would prefer that others either learn to appreciate its subtle beauty and its fragility or go elsewhere. I still think that Frank and Deborah Popper have a good idea in wanting to designate a portion of the Great Plains as a buffalo commons because it would keep people like Boone Pickens from profiting by exploiting what lies below the land.