A team from Kansas State University found that a portion of the High Plains Aquifer, called the Ogallala Aquifer, will be nearly 70 percent drained by the year 2060 if current use and recent climate conditions prevail until then.
They estimate that 3 percent of the aquifer’s water was used up by 1960 and nearly a third has been drained as of this year.
Once depleted, the aquifer could take an average of 500-1,300 years to completely refill given current rainfall patterns.
“We know the aquifer is being depleted, but trying to project long-term is very difficult, because there are climate issuest and social aspects that have to be included,” water resources expert Bridget Scanlon of the University of Texas at Austin told LiveScience.
She cautions that it will be difficult to resolve groundwater depletion problems without unfairly targeting farmers.
But Kansas State University researchers say that if reducing water use becomes an immediate priority, it could still be possible to use the aquifer's resources and increase net agricultural production through the year 2110.
Their findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Photo: Bruce Barnett - Flickr