Ground Water Used for Agriculture in West Texas Research Paper

Pages: 10 (3092 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture

Groundwater usage for Agriculture inTexas

Groundwater is found below the earth's surface in crevices of soil and rock Rubicon Real Estate

Services. The laws in Texas regarding groundwater use is based on the English common law of "absolute use" or the "Rule of Capture" Rubicon. This means the property owner has complete determination of the usage of the groundwater located beneath his property. The American rule of "reasonable use" regarding groundwater is not applied or recognized in Texas Rubicon. The result is that landowners can conceivably dry up adjoining wells by their own usage and there is no legal remedy for the landowner with a dry well Rubicon.

There are exceptions to this rule such as the malicious conduct in pumping water for the sole purpose of harming an adjoining landowner and polluting groundwater Rubicon. For these reasons, the need for regulation of groundwater has resulted in the development of groundwater conservation and management districts Rubicon.

American agriculture has thrived for years on the idea of technology, progress, and the successes from the previous year's crop. Whether a farmer grows wheat, corn, cotton or sorghum, going through the decision-making process and deciding what to plant the next year can be quite the guessing game. Some of the factors influencing these decisions include the funds from previous years, family conditions, working situations, weather, and water availability. Without awareness to management and conservation practices, the West Texas area could suffer losses of natural resources. Often the reason for water shortages and problems with its availability is a disproportionate balance between growing populations and precipitation amount and distribution

The main problems facing agriculture are a declining supply of water and a decrease in the quality of the water. As the population continues to increase so does demand for food, but the amount of water available to produce that food does not increase. There is competition over the water in the rivers. Water quality is also an issue, since runoff from fields makes rivers more saline, carrying off soluble mineral salts as well as excess nutrients from fertilizer such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. As a result the water may be too salty to use for irrigation further downstream, since most crops cannot cope with salty water Mission 2012.

There are two main areas of agriculture where water is an issue: livestock and crops. Too much water is used for livestock production, making American meat consumption unsustainable. As far as crops are concerned, the current irrigation systems are often inefficient resulting in water loses and runoff. The government's policy of subsidizing crops is also a problem since it promotes growth of water intensive crops in some dry areas.

W while Texas' rivers provide water for human, animal and industrial uses, groundwater supports irrigated agriculture and is increasingly important for human consumption. Since the 1970s, according to Texas Water Development Board data, groundwater consistently has accounted for more than half of all Texas water use Infrastructure: Water-Texas in Focus. The average annual rainfall in far West Texas is 10 inches and the result is an arid climate in far West Texas and semi-arid climate (less than 20 inches of precipitation annually) in the western half of Texas Infrastructure:Water. In 2004, groundwater supplied 59%, or 9.2 million acre-feet, of Texas' water Infrastructure:Water. Of that amount, almost 80% was used for agricultural irrigation Infrastructure: Water.

Water politics in West Texas has become more competitive and almost all agricultural areas have requested 'critical status' Somma, Mark. For example, Lubbock, Texas has no drought management policy and the state has no official guidelines on drought Somma. Local independence from other areas continues to be a vital factor for farmers in West Texas. Individual farmers belove they are threatened by the possibility of the state taking over water management Somma. The farmers and others are left to either organize their own water districts, join an existing water district or allow the state government to provide the rules.

Single county districts are at a disadvantage due to the need for higher taxation for their water district Somma. Multi-county districts offer a lower taxation which, in turn, translates into higher revenue for the district Somma. Issues such as revenue vary throughout and causes the single county districts to be lacking in the financial ability to obtain the same level of management and technical expertise Somma.

In response to pressure from declining underground water reserves and state government demands, West Texas agriculture is organizing under local groundwater conservation districts. The districts use persuasion, education, and access to low-interest loans and grants to encourage water conservation. Little regulatory authority is vested in district managers and, outside of state funds to subsidize irrigation technology, the state has limited influence Somma.

According to Joe Patoski, the area of West Texas is being subjected to water marketers including millionaire farmer Clayton Williams Jr., developer Woody Hunt, Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz and Dallas corporate raider, T. Boone Pickens who are finding ways of diverting the water to the cities "Playing by the Rule." Lawsuits are numerous, creating backlogged courts and no real solutions Patoski. Politicians talk but offer no honest answers while lobbyists line their pockets preparing for a legislative session where water will be addressed as a serious long-term problem in Texas Patoski. That nasty little "Rule of Capture" has not been successfully challenged and no politician with power and influence has dated to suggest eliminating this archaic rule. The idea that water is the new oil in Texas seems to be supported by the persistent activities of big money seeking even more money. The conservation districts have the power to space wells, but when it comes down to it, the "Rule of Capture" takes precedence Patoski. Evidently in Texas, the protection of property owners is more vital than responsible conservation, preventing severe water shortages in the future. By law, the 98 groundwater conservation districts must have plans to assure a water supply that will last 50 years Patoski.

Man made sources may be characterized as point sources, where the contaminants can be traced to a particular location, and non-point sources, where contaminants accumulate over a large, more vaguely defined area. Point source problems are likely the easiest of the two categories to be solved. Examples of point sources include leaky tanks or pipelines containing petroleum products, septic systems and industrial waste Mission 2012 Clean Water. Leaks from old storage tanks and septic systems include bacteria, oils, and chemicals. Motor fuel contains hydrocarbons and additives that pose health risks to people, animals, and plants. In 1994, it was estimated that 1.2 million Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) existed in the U.S., many of which could be leaking or leak at some time in the future Mission 2012. Local gasoline stations use, by far, the largest number of USTs. Most of them have two to four 4,000 to 12,000 gallon tanks underground. Some rural homeowners may also use USTs for residential or farming purposes.

Landfills allow waste from households and domestic uses to permeate into the aquifers. It is estimated that over 30,000 potentially harmful chemicals are being used and distributed through the environment and that an additional 1,000 are being added each year Mission 2012. Currently, there are thought to be over 20,000 abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites in the United States alone and that number grows every year Mission 2012. The second type of source includes runoffs from urban development, roads/highways, and agricultural uses of fertilizers and pesticides. These sources are much more difficult to control because the contaminants are diffused over a large area.

The most serious source of contamination is in recharge zones and consists of petroleum products, including automobile oil, which Americans dump or bury in their backyards at the rate of 240 million gallons (910 million L) per year. On a more industrial scale (factories), inadequately sealed toxic waste and radioactive materials contaminate extensive areas of groundwater when they are deposited near recharge zones Mission 2012.

The population of Texas is expected to double by 2050, primarily in the urban areas Brock, Laura and Sanger, Mary. Brock and Sanger prepared a report focusing on 10 groundwater districts in Texas and the report was generated by the Texas Office of Environmental Defense as part of their goals of improving water management policy in Texas Brock. The report states that obtaining sufficient clean water in Texas is one of the significant problems in Texas Brock. The potential hardships in Texas related to water issues are population growth since this effects not only the economy but the ecology of urban and rural areas Brock. Groundwater districts have been established by the Texas legislature in an effort to protect and manage the resources. Tough rule making and management problems confronts many of these districts and the methods used to address such problems vary according to each district Brock.

In 2002, Texas used 5.2 trillion gallons of water People and Groundwater. The population is growing as well as the amount of water consumed. A reduction in irrigation… [END OF PREVIEW]

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