Lubbock and the South Plains witnessed the third largest decline of groundwater levels since the start of record-keeping 61 years ago. The numbers for 2011 were released this week by the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District.
Measurements taken during the winter months indicate an average decline of -2.56 feet in groundwater levels of the Ogallala Aquifer within the 16 counties in the district. By contrast the average drop during 2010 was less than one full inch.
A written statement from the HPWD says the decline can be explained by "exceptional drought and record-setting high temperatures."
"Extreme heat, low humidity, and hot, dry wind caused increased supplemental irrigation in both the agricultural and urban sectors."
The impact on some homeowners outside the city is harsh. It means spending the money to drill deeper wells or going without water. And for farmers, it means a finite amount of groundwater is getting harder and more expensive to reach. Cotton alone has a $5 billion impact on the greater Lubbock area.
At the same time, new regulations that came into effect this year from the HPWD have been met with controversy. Farmers will soon be allowed to irrigate crops only to the equivalent of 15 inches of water. In a year like 2010, it's not a deal-breaker. But in 2011, a time of record-breaking drought, 15 inches is not nearly enough.
KCBD NewsChannel 11's Alex Zielinksi is working to find the impacts on everyday local residents. Look for his reports at 4, 5, 6, and 10.
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