Despite groundwater level changes, Nebraska is mostly unaffected

Despite groundwater level changes as a result of the shrinking High Plains Aquifer, Nebraska has been left mostly unscathed.

Recent geological studies have found water levels in the Ogallala or High Plains Aquifer have been dropping at an increased rate in certain areas of the Midwest, including Colorado, Kansas and Texas.

Groundwater levels in neighboring states have been dropping for decades.

Due to droughts in the region, irrigation pumps are using water faster than rainfall can recharge it.

Areas in Colorado are experiencing these declines due to this reason.

"In that part of Colorado, they are looking at about 14-15 inches of rain per year – that’s not very much rain – they are pumping groundwater that largely isn’t going to be replaced. So, to an extent, once it’s gone, it’s pretty much gone," said University of Nebraska-Lincoln geologist Aaron Young.

The decline in groundwater levels, especially in the mid west are worried for the future of their industry.

Fortunately for Nebraskans, precipitation levels have been higher in recent years, which has led to greater water resources to draw from when the dry season arrives.

Nebraska also has regulations in place that limit the amount of water that can be pumped during the dry parts of the year as well as limits on the installation of new wells.

Something that geologists can not account for is the continued impact of climate change. When recharging the aquifer it is better to experience precipitation levels that accumulate over a longer period of time, rather than flash flooding which can be washed into nearby rivers or streams.

"Water levels or groundwater storage is in pretty good shape, we do have some problem areas, parts of the western part of the state where we are drying up deep ground water that is hard to replace," said Aaron Young.

In wake of these recent findings, some of the alternatives that are being looked into are better irrigation technology and more efficient land usage.