Time, Water Running Out for America’s Biggest Aquifer

July 27, 2010 • Farming Practices, Water, United States, Daily Email Recap

Thanks to the NPG Journal for drawing my attention to this article from AOL News.

In 1823, a government surveyor named Stephen Long was working to map out the Great Plains, an expanse of land acquired along with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. He was unimpressed by what he saw. As his geographer wrote in the report that accompanied the expedition: I do not hesitate in giving the opinion that it is almost wholly unfit for cultivation, and of course, uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence.

Long would have been shocked to see what the region looks like today — not merely fit for cultivation, but in fact one of the most fertile and productive areas of the world. Since World War II, dramatic leaps in technology have allowed farmers to pump groundwater for irrigation and extend America’s breadbasket through the entire Great Plains, transforming what Long called “The Great American Desert” into an expanse of green circles defined by the reach of central pivot irrigation systems.

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