The High Plains Aquifer, USA—A Case Study

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Groundwater is one of the most important sources of fresh water, and is also among the most frequently overlooked and misunderstood. Aquifers supply a large amount of water, but are famously threatened by overdevelopment. This chapter summarizes the physical geography, hydrogeology, and management of the High Plains Aquifer, one of the most important aquifers in North America. The High Plains Aquifer is heavily utilized for irrigation of corn, soy, and cotton. It is threatened by agricultural development, with much of the aquifer already depleted to the point of no longer supporting efficient irrigation pumping. The remaining aquifer lifespan varies over space and is difficult to predict, with estimates ranging from less than a decade in some places, to several centuries in others. However, even this view of aquifer depletion is incomplete, because it ignores the possibility of groundwater contamination in areas with adequate recharge to supply water to farms. In efforts to safeguard both the quantity and quality of groundwater in the High Plains Aquifer, it is important to consider both economic and environmental goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Inland Waters, Second Edition
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9780128220412
ISBN (Print)9780128191668
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Agriculture
  • Groundwater
  • Irrigation
  • Ogallala
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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