Facing Reality: Agriculture without the Ogallala Aquifer: A Comparative Study: The Texas Panhandle and Western Australian Wheatbelt
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Agriculture in the Texas Panhandle depends extensively on the Ogallala Aquifer for its water needs and is on path to be completely depleted. Once emptied, hydrogeologists estimate it could take over 6,000 years to fully recharge (Brambila 2014). Parts of the Texas Panhandle have already exhausted the aquifer for irrigation purposes. By 2050 the cost of extracting water from increasing depths could render the entire portion of the aquifer that lays beneath Texas economically exhausted. The high plains of Texas have no alternative aquifer, river, or lake that could provide similar volumes of water without being cost prohibitive. Despite this widely known forecast in and out of the region little research or planning exists for transitioning agriculture away from aquifer water. The only sustainable way forward is to return to “dryland” agriculture that relies natural rainfall swings. This research will contribute to this gap in policy and scholarly analysis through a comparative case study of the Western Australian Wheatbelt (WAW). It will illustrate what future agriculture yields and techniques could resemble in the Texas Panhandle and to suggest specific strategies for adaptation.