Click on any picture to enlarge
The large underground aquifer in the Midwest underlying 8 states known as the Ogallala aquifer is losing it’s massive quantities of water and its levels are dropping. The aquifer used by farmers to irrigate their crops, homeowner wells and industrial use for business is being depleted faster than rainfall and precipitation can recharge the aquifer.
Aquifer levels are being lowered in other states and regions including California, the Mississippi River Valley, and the Southwestern and Southeastern states as well. California has even seen land subsidence in parts of the state because the water levels are so low. During the year in 2011 Americans pumped 76 billion gallons of water out of the ground per day. Water conservation measures are the norm now in places like California to lower water use.
The newspaper USA Today did an extensive study of 32,000 wells in the U.S. to determine how high the water levels were and found that 2/3 of them were much lower than previous years. The Plains states in the Midwest where much of the nations food is grown has average water levels 13.2 ft. lower today than in 1995. Agriculture accounts for about 2/3 of the nations water use of underground fresh water.
Florida has a similar problem despite the fact that the state gets almost 5 ft. of rainfall per year. During the 20th century, state land managers and developers had been turning wetlands into drylands by building canals, dams, levees and pump station across the state. The well meaning actions by land managers decades ago to protect people from flooding and make the wetlands useful for farming and home developments has now turned into a billion dollar effort to reclaim the land and turn dry land back into wetlands. Florida’s 20 million people need an adequate supply of fresh drinking water which comes mostly from underground aquifers.
Florida used to be a vast wetland consisting of swamps, sloughs, winding rivers and floodplains. Most of that has been wiped away from the efforts of mankind. Places like the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Ft. Myers which was re-established by county managers about 25 years ago is an example of re-claiming the land and allow it to absorb rainfall, storm water runoff and sheet flow of water running across the land. There are many other water reclamation projects being done in Florida by the Army Corp of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District and EPA.
There are some excellent websites explaining what aquifers look like underground and their functions which include the United States Geological Survey Science School. The Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection also has a map showing the aquifers underlying the state and more information about aquifers.