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<v Jerry Wilhelm>[water dripping] ?inaudible? <v Narrator>Jerry Wilhelm is selling the family farm. <v Narrator>Over a section of land. <v Narrator>748 acres on the auction block, everything must go. <v Narrator>[Jerry inaudibly speaking] Tractors, ?inaudible? sheds, fence posts, and ultimately the <v Narrator>house near Nazareth, Texas, where the Wilhelm's have raised their ten children. <v Narrator>It's an all too common sight nowadays on the high plains. <v Narrator>It's the heartland of America, the land they used to call the Great Prairie. <v Narrator>For Jerry Wilhelm and his family, the old ?home? place has become more of a liability <v Narrator>than an asset. <v Narrator>For hundreds of other farmers like Jerry Wilhelm, the auctioneers melodic refrain <v Narrator>?inaudible? has become a cliche for the ending of a way of life.
<v Jerry Wilhelm>195, 295, 295. ?inaudible? 290. <v Jerry Wilhelm>Number 3 1 8 the buyer 3 1 8 290. <v Jerry Wilhelm>[dripping water] <v Narrator>Farmers are hard pressed practically everywhere in this country. <v Narrator>The escalating cost of fuel, fertilizer, feed and equipment have taken <v Narrator>their toll. The economics of the marketplace have put the squeeze on the family <v Narrator>farm. It was President John Kennedy, who said the farmer is <v Narrator>the only person in the country who must buy retail and sell wholesale. <v Narrator>John Kennedy was right. <v Narrator>Farmers on the high plains are not only selling their corn, cotton and wheat wholesale, <v Narrator>they're also selling their farms wholesale. <v Narrator>[Jerry inaudibly speaking] And one of the biggest reasons for all of the auctions is <v Narrator>selling all of the old home places, is that many farmers on the high plains <v Narrator>are also miners who'd been working the same plane. <v Narrator>For 40 years they've been mining liquid gold and the vein is just
<v Narrator>about exhausted. The Ogallala's bone dry. <v Narrator>[music plays]
<v Wes Jackson>Uh the Indians hunted the flint and made their fulsome <v Wes Jackson>points. Uh after the Indian uh there were the the <v Wes Jackson>uh well the miners of the buffalo hide. <v Wes Jackson>The white hunters of the hide. <v Wes Jackson>And uh we know what happened there. <v Wes Jackson>And then the bones were mined from the prairie. <v Wes Jackson>And then uh there were the grass miners. <v Wes Jackson>And then uh came the those that turned the sod <v Wes Jackson>that began to mine the soil. <v Wes Jackson>And of course, we know the story, the mining of the water, the mining of the oil, <v Wes Jackson>the mining of the natural gas. <v Wes Jackson>We have a men- the mining mentality is all pervasive. <v Wes Jackson>We've always been into mining. <v Wes Jackson>Uh we have the idea the Lord will provide. <v Wes Jackson>Well, the Lord, of course, may provide, but uh at the expense <v Wes Jackson>of uh of the future. [dripping water]
<v Stewart Udall>Hello, I'm Stewart Udall, and I wanna talk to you about the future. <v Stewart Udall>This program is about the future, the bleak future of the Ogallala Aquifer, <v Stewart Udall>the world's largest water aquifer, a vast underground storage reservoir <v Stewart Udall>that for the past 40 years has helped to make the Great Plains one of the world's <v Stewart Udall>most productive agricultural areas. <v Stewart Udall>But the Ogallala is being pumped dry, drained by huge irrigation pumps <v Stewart Udall>that can pump up to 2000 gallons per minute, pumped dry to produce <v Stewart Udall>stands of cotton and wheat and corn as high as an elephant's <v Stewart Udall>?eye?. The Ogallala is a water resource that underlies 8 states <v Stewart Udall>and provides for the irrigation of over 16 million acres. <v Stewart Udall>It is a living renewable system. <v Stewart Udall>Nature has been slowly storing water in the Ogallala for more than 12 million years. <v Stewart Udall>But for the past 40 years, its water has been withdrawn faster than it has <v Stewart Udall>accumulated. How did it happen?
<v Stewart Udall>What can be done about it? <v Stewart Udall>Have we again needlessly sacrificed an irreplaceable natural resource? <v Stewart Udall>Greg Smith, a geologist with the U.S. <v Stewart Udall>Geological Survey, explains how it started a long time <v Stewart Udall>ago. <v Greg Smith>Some 2 to 12 million years ago, the mountain ranges of the Rocky Mountain area were being <v Greg Smith>uplifted and arched to gain their present elevation. <v Greg Smith>As a result of this gain in altitude, the streams in the area were able to vigorously <v Greg Smith>erode into the mountain bedrock and thousands of feet of rock were eroded from the tops <v Greg Smith>of these mountains. <v Greg Smith>Numerous streams carried the resulting material sand, silt and gravel and clay <v Greg Smith>and spread them to the east over the Great Plains, over a preexisting landscape <v Greg Smith>of hills and valleys, so the thickness of the Ogallala formation varies considerably. <v Greg Smith>The water saturated thickness of the Ogallala Ranges up to 700 feet. <v Greg Smith>Let's take a look at what the Ogallala is composed of, sand and gravel. <v Greg Smith>The Ogallala Formation consists of a series of generally unconsolidated sands and gravels
<v Greg Smith>and silts and clays. However, most of the Ogallala consists of sand and silt size <v Greg Smith>material, which is very porous and allows the storage of water. <v Greg Smith>Many people think of groundwater as occurring in large underground rivers or lakes. <v Greg Smith>However, this is generally not true. <v Greg Smith>The groundwater in the Ogallala formation occurs in the spaces or pores <v Greg Smith>between the sand and silt grains. <v Greg Smith>The recharge to the Ogallala formation occurs by precipitation, rain and snow <v Greg Smith>falling on the surface and seeping into the formation itself. <v Greg Smith>The Ogallala is going dry mainly because the recharge is not keeping up with the pump <v Greg Smith>?inaudible? discharge from the formation. <v Greg Smith>So what we have is essentially mining of groundwater. <v Narrator>?Man? has been farming on this planet for just a fraction of the time it took the <v Narrator>Ogallala to form. <v Narrator>About 6000 years ago, the Egyptians developed irrigation techniques. <v Narrator>They discovered a fundamental principle in the history of man's development. <v Narrator>?inaudible? could be dependent upon for a constant source of water for growing crops.
<v Narrator>If you didn't have a nearby river or stream, you basically had one other option <v Narrator>if you wanted to be a farmer. You had to depend on rain. <v Narrator>And rain, as most weathermen will testify, is not always very dependable. <v Narrator>For about 6000 years, farmers have used one or the other of these two systems <v Narrator>to grow their crops. River or stream, irrigation or dry land <v Narrator>farming and prayer. Praying for rain. <v Narrator>Not too much rain and not too little. <v Narrator>[music plays]
<v Wes Jackson>Somebody got a little deeper when they were drilling a well <v Wes Jackson>and they they discovered what they thought was an underground river <v Wes Jackson>and they perceived it to be an inexhaustible supply. <v Wes Jackson>Just like some of their ancestors perceived the force of North America to be <v Wes Jackson>inexhaustible, we went after that water because <v Wes Jackson>we are the descendants of settlers that came from a humid section <v Wes Jackson>of the country. And when you go into western Kansas, western Nebraska, <v Wes Jackson>where we have the buffalo grass, uh it doesn't <v Wes Jackson>look like uh Illinois or Kentucky <v Wes Jackson>or Vermont. <v Wes Jackson>Uh and if you got water so that you can change that landscape. <v Wes Jackson>Uh have an ensemble of plants growing there that is reminiscent <v Wes Jackson>of where we were, well, then we do it.
<v Narrator>The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl had finally come to an end. <v Narrator>And a technological revolution that burgeoned during and after World War Two <v Narrator>brought with it a new option for the dry land farmer living over the Ogallala. <v Narrator>Irrigation and pump technology, coupled with a seemingly inexhaustible <v Narrator>aquifer provided high plains farmers with something they had never before enjoyed: <v Narrator>predictability. The knowledge that they had at last a ?measure? <v Narrator>of control over Mother Nature. <v Narrator>The water, the source of ?inaudible? <v Narrator>was just sittin' down there lying under Kansas, Nebraska, <v Narrator>Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. <v Narrator>[music plays] And all you had to do to get it was to turn on the pump.
<v Duncan Ellison>This area is responsible for about 25 percent of the nation's cotton <v Duncan Ellison>production every year. 20, 25 percent of the grain ?sorghum? <v Duncan Ellison>production fed cattle beef cattle enough to feed 20 million <v Duncan Ellison>Americans per year. <v Duncan Ellison>Uh 40 years from now, we'll be outta water here. <v Duncan Ellison>But it will be a gradual sort of a thing. <v Duncan Ellison>Now, I think the biggest asset we have out here is really not water, it's <v Duncan Ellison>the ingenuity of the people that used the water. <v Duncan Ellison>And this ingenuity comes in like more and more every day. <v Duncan Ellison>As we have less water to use, we find more genius ways to use it. <v Jack Muse>I would guess that I can sustain irrigated farming on this piece of ground for about <v Jack Muse>another 5 years. <v Jack Muse>That will depend on how how much the neighbors <v Jack Muse>pump, how much I pump, how aggressive we are with mining the water that we do have. <v Wes Jackson>Uh well, first of all, it's played out almost in Texas and it's moving <v Wes Jackson>across the panhandle handle and now play uh playing out in Kansas.
<v Wes Jackson>And 62 percent of all the Ogallala water that is left, I understand, is in <v Wes Jackson>Nebraska. Uh and so it's part of the good old American <v Wes Jackson>tradition that when it plays out in one place, why just move on. <v Wes Jackson>I mean, that's one of the things that's happened. <v Wes Jackson>Move right from from Jamestown to the West Coast <v Wes Jackson>is uh when the soil is gone or when the place has been made foul. <v Wes Jackson>I just move on. Or if a society regards land like they do <v Wes Jackson>that, hay bailer there, that'll depreciate out in a certain period of time, <v Wes Jackson>uh then they know when they're their capital investment is going to <v Wes Jackson>have played out and they'll just simply go on to another one. <v Wes Jackson>Well, that of course is an economics that's built on infinite systems. <v Wes Jackson>And uh when we're talking about agricultural land, we're not talking about infinity.
<v Jerry Wilhelm>[quickly auctioning] <v Duncan Ellison>I think that it will be the High Plains Council that will make any recommendation <v Duncan Ellison>uh relating to ?importation?. <v Duncan Ellison>I think that the report will show that without ?importation?, it will adversely <v Duncan Ellison>affect in a very major way our balance of payments, the nation <v Duncan Ellison>balance payments and foreign trade. <v Duncan Ellison>And I think that it will also show that without ?importation? <v Duncan Ellison>that we will have more hungry, starving people around <v Duncan Ellison>the world, perhaps even in this country in the not too distant future. <v Frances M. Lappe>The idea that our agriculture is feeding the hungry world is a fun- <v Frances M. Lappe>is a is a myth [laughs]. <v Frances M. Lappe>Two thirds of our agricultural exports go to feed livestock. <v Frances M. Lappe>And anyone who's ever been to the third world or knows anything about third world <v Frances M. Lappe>reality knows that hungry people are not eating meat and they're certainly not eating <v Frances M. Lappe>meat fed on imported grain. <v Frances M. Lappe>Our tax dollars pay for bakery schools in Asia, teaching people <v Frances M. Lappe>to enjoy wheat and associate that with a good life when historically for thousands
<v Frances M. Lappe>of years they've done quite well eating rice. <v Frances M. Lappe>So I think that there that farmers often feel that well, <v Frances M. Lappe>even if I'm not making a killing, at least I'm feeding the hungry world. <v Frances M. Lappe>And so that 'gain, perpetuates this idea that, well, if we can just export <v Frances M. Lappe>more food, that somehow farmers are gonna make more money and the world's gonna <v Frances M. Lappe>be better off. <v Y.F. Snodgrass>Until we get back in, we get to the point to weaken how the importation <v Y.F. Snodgrass>of water, fresh water from somewhere that we will have many acres that <v Y.F. Snodgrass>we'll revert back to dryland farming. <v Y.F. Snodgrass>But then when that big ditch or canal or however it's brought in here is brought in <v Y.F. Snodgrass>here, this will be one viable part of the economy of the United <v Y.F. Snodgrass>States, providing a food and a fiber supply domestically for our people <v Y.F. Snodgrass>and also helping to provide that market that's so available all over the world <v Y.F. Snodgrass>in the export channels. <v Gorman Byrd>We've got grains. We have a hard time, sir. <v Gorman Byrd>You see, even though our export market will amount to
<v Gorman Byrd>around 42 to 45 billion dollars in agricultural goods <v Gorman Byrd>just this year, uh we- we've still got grains we can't sell. <v Gorman Byrd>We're producing too much of it even yet. <v Gorman Byrd>So consequently, I don't think the government, the federal government would be bothered <v Gorman Byrd>about piping water in here until we actually need the irrigated <v Gorman Byrd>production from this area. <v Narrator>?inaudible? The high plains need more water because it's helping to feed a hungry world. <v Narrator>Should we continue to encourage farmers to raise surplus crops? <v Narrator>Do we as a nation have a long range foreign policy? <v Narrator>Do we have a meaningful national water policy? <v Narrator>All these questions need to be addressed, but unfortunately the answers will not be <v Narrator>found in time to save the Ogallala. <v Narrator>Although the Ogallala will last another 40 or 70 years depends upon <v Narrator>which expert you talk to. In the minds of many farmers and the governors of the 6 states <v Narrator>that depend on Ogallala water, time is running out and some envision
<v Narrator>the ultimate solution as a concrete ditch over 100 feet wide and up <v Narrator>to 900 miles long. <v Stewart Udall>Vast systems of canals are expected to be part <v Stewart Udall>of a report that the High Plains Study Council is preparing for Congress is one <v Stewart Udall>answer to the Ogallala crisis. <v Stewart Udall>Many authorities calculate that the plan, which is being developed <v Stewart Udall>by the council and the Army Corps of Engineers, will contemplate <v Stewart Udall>a project which could be the largest and the most costly in the history of the world. <v Stewart Udall>Building the Panama Canal was, of course, a tremendous feat, <v Stewart Udall>bringing Prudhoe Bay oil from the Arctic, a tremendous recent undertaking, <v Stewart Udall>but bringing the Missouri River to Colorado, that would be something else. <v Duncan Ellison>Those who have surplus water are, of course uh, the first <v Duncan Ellison>uh reaction is you can't have my water. <v Duncan Ellison>But bear in mind that out here we're not lookin' for someone else's water
<v Duncan Ellison>we're looking for water. <v Duncan Ellison>It is absolutely surplus to all of their projected future need. <v Duncan Ellison>And we have no intention of taking a drop of water from anywhere <v Duncan Ellison>where it's needed to bring water out here. <v Duncan Ellison>We're talking about water that is going to waste right now flowing into the <v Duncan Ellison>ocean unused every year. <v Duncan Ellison>And we'll continue to do so throughout history. <v Duncan Ellison>That's the water we're talking about. <v Wes Jackson>Well, then they better start talking to the barge men on the <v Wes Jackson>Missouri. And I mean, barge men at St. <v Wes Jackson>Lewis, barge men in Kansas City, barge men all along, <v Wes Jackson>as well as barge men on the Mississippi before they start talking about surplus <v Wes Jackson>water. They better uh talk to some of the industrial leaders <v Wes Jackson>in those towns, too, before they start talking about surplus water. <v Wes Jackson>Uh one of the things that characterizes the Missouri River basin as
<v Wes Jackson>a whole, I mean, if you take the full length of it, <v Wes Jackson>uh is that it is a basin that does not have surplus water. <v Stewart Udall>Regardless of whether the ?inaudible? <v Stewart Udall>has a surplus or not, the Army Corps of Engineers has spent a lot of time and <v Stewart Udall>money investigating various schemes to import water to the high plains. <v Stewart Udall>And they've come up with four possible plans. <v Stewart Udall>[water rushing] Plan A involves tapping the Missouri River at Fort Randall, South Dakota, <v Stewart Udall>and transporting it south westward through Nebraska to Bonny Reservoir, Colorado. <v Stewart Udall>Plan B would likewise use the Missouri bringing water from St. Joseph, <v Stewart Udall>south westward through Kansas City to Dodge City. <v Stewart Udall>Plan C would originate in Arkansas, collecting <v Stewart Udall>water from six different rivers in Arkansas and Texas before the canal reached its <v Stewart Udall>storage point in the Texas Panhandle. <v Stewart Udall>Plan B also involves the use of rivers in Arkansas and Texas,
<v Stewart Udall>eventually terminating in West Texas. <v Stewart Udall>The shortest drought is Plan B, a distance of 360 miles. <v Stewart Udall>Plan C would stretch 870 miles across Arkansas <v Stewart Udall>and Texas. All ?the routes? <v Stewart Udall>will terminate in storage reservoirs. <v Stewart Udall>Water will then be distributed to individual landowners. <v Stewart Udall>It is not technically feasible to pump water back into the aquifer. <v Stewart Udall>A couple of other minor detail, all the routes go uphill. <v Stewart Udall>An average of about 2000 feet in elevation. <v Stewart Udall>Multiple pumping stations will be required. <v Stewart Udall>All the routes will cost money. <v Stewart Udall>About 10 billion dollars for route B to 30 billion for route C. <v Stewart Udall>And those estimates are a combination of 1977 and 1981 prices. <v Wes Jackson>If they were to replace uh what is withdrawn from <v Wes Jackson>the Ogallala in one year, which is around 14 million acre
<v Wes Jackson>feet, if they were to replace it during the irrigation <v Wes Jackson>season, by withdrawing water from the Missouri at Kansas City, <v Wes Jackson>the Missouri River, during the irrigation season would be dry <v Wes Jackson>immediately below the suction pipe. <v Duncan Ellison>How do I react to people talking that <v Duncan Ellison>o- outside of the area, that over my dead body, you'll get our water? <v Duncan Ellison>Uh I take this with a grain of salt. <v Duncan Ellison>Uh they have a bargaining position and I I feel like they're using it. <v Duncan Ellison>In uh the Missouri River, for instance, uh is not adjudicated <v Duncan Ellison>by any one state or does the water belong to any one state. <v Duncan Ellison>It belongs to the people of the United States. <v Duncan Ellison>And after that, water rights are adjudicated. <v Duncan Ellison>If indeed there is surplus there, uh, I question who <v Duncan Ellison>is to say that you can have that water. <v Wes Jackson>Now, we better also pay attention whether in fact, some of the
<v Wes Jackson>push to move that water is not, in fact, coming <v Wes Jackson>from industry. That is maybe it's just a uh it's <v Wes Jackson>coming under the uh the guise of helping agriculture when in fact, <v Wes Jackson>uh perhaps those that are interested in energy development in the Rocky Mountain region, <v Wes Jackson>you know, over there where they're gonna get all that coal and shale and ?saw? <v Wes Jackson>on the news national sacrifice area that's supposed to solve our problems. <v Duncan Ellison>Water importation must be in place uh in the southern <v Duncan Ellison>high plain uh within the next 40 years. <v Duncan Ellison>Uh after a 4 after the 40 year period, then we're <v Duncan Ellison>we're in real trouble if it's not in place. <v Wes Jackson>[rooster cawing] Look, those guys play. <v Wes Jackson>They drink whiskey out of the same bottle. <v Wes Jackson>That's what it amounts to. <v Wes Jackson>Uh, they are all in to um <v Wes Jackson>economic growth and development for themselves.
<v Wes Jackson>That is the secular religion in this society. <v Wes Jackson>And uh I- it doesn't surprise me that <v Wes Jackson>uh some outfit that has a Chamber of Commerce mentality is <v Wes Jackson>going to uh is going to promote streng- strength through <v Wes Jackson>exhaustion. <v Stewart Udall>The High Plains Council is due to present its report to Congress in the spring of 1982. <v Stewart Udall>And most people are betting that one or more of the big water import plans <v Stewart Udall>will be recommended. But if that is the case, big hurdles lie ahead. <v Stewart Udall>Some of them are at the national level. <v Stewart Udall>We have no national water policy. <v Stewart Udall>We have no national agricultural production policy either. <v Stewart Udall>And with the shift in responsibility for resource decision making to the states, <v Stewart Udall>there are big problems there. State water laws are not uniform. <v Stewart Udall>Individual rights vary and Indian rights have not been defined in some Western <v Stewart Udall>states. And of course, there are the barge men on the Missouri and the
<v Stewart Udall>cities and industries downstream that want to use the same water. <v Stewart Udall>It's clear a major fight is looming and one would have to be an optimist <v Stewart Udall>to feel that any of these plans could be implemented by the end of the century. <v Wes Jackson>I think that it's uh it's foolish [wind blowing] for people to <v Wes Jackson>not make contingency plans. <v Wes Jackson>And if they just assume that it's going to be business as usual when that water <v Wes Jackson>is gone, because we will be able to pull it in from somewhere else, then they're not <v Wes Jackson>reading the the track record of humanity. <v Wes Jackson>And the track record of humanity has numerous examples of people running low <v Wes Jackson>on their resources and having to quit an area. <v Wes Jackson>And if we assume that we're immune to it simply because we're on a young continent, <v Wes Jackson>which we're aging more rapidly than any continent in the history of the earth, <v Wes Jackson>uh then we're just going to uh we're just going to go the way of the rest. <v Wes Jackson>And it's another way of saying that education makes no difference.
<v Stewart Udall>Wes Jackson is working to bring back the prairie. <v Stewart Udall>[Wes inaudibly speaking] He's developing perennial grain crops. <v Stewart Udall>Crops that will require less water and less energy to produce. <v Stewart Udall>It's a very exciting concept. <v Stewart Udall>The work of hundreds of other agriculture researchers goes on, but it is <v Stewart Udall>too little, too late to save the Ogallala. <v Stewart Udall>Transporting water from the Missouri or the Arkansas will not replenish the <v Stewart Udall>Ogallala. Imported water will grow crops, but the tremendous <v Stewart Udall>cost of the project might make high plains cotton as costly as silk <v Stewart Udall>and wheat as expensive as wild rice. <v Stewart Udall>There is no real solution to the problem of the Ogallala except perhaps to wait. <v Stewart Udall>To wait 10 or 15 million years for the rain and the runoff <v Stewart Udall>to recharge the aquifer. <v Stewart Udall>But we can't afford to wait. <v Stewart Udall>We can't afford to wait for a national water policy which respects the limits <v Stewart Udall>of this region. Nor can we afford to wait until other aquifers are pumped dry,
<v Stewart Udall>or other rivers and lakes are rendered unusable by pollution. <v Stewart Udall>We can't afford to wait because man hasn't learned to make water or learned to live <v Stewart Udall>without it. [music plays] <v Jerry Wilhelm>Eventually <v Jerry Wilhelm>we're gonna lose [quick inaudible auctioning] this whole area, a way <v Jerry Wilhelm>of life. We'll be lost completely all the way around.
The End of an Aquifer
Producing Organization
KNME-TV (Television station : Albuquerque, N.M.)
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
New Mexico PBS (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
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Program Description
"Narrated by former Secretary of State Stewart Udall, 'The End of An Aquifer' documents what is a largely unchronicled crisis-- The Ogallala Aquifer is running dry. A vast 225 thousand square mile underground water reservoir, the Ogallala Aquifer nourishes some of this country's most productive agricultural lands immediately east of the Rocky Mountains near the nation's heartland. They are called 'The High Plains,' and in excess of 16 million acres of America's food and fiber crops are cultivated in the six-state region they embrace, including portions of New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. Prehistoric in origin, during the early 1950's the waters of the Ogallala increasingly were pumped to the earth's surface for use in irrigated agricultural production. "Between 1954 and 1973, feed grain production in the four-state region of Kansas, Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma, alone, increased by an astonishing 275 percent, due to irrigation made possible by the waters of the Ogallala. At the end of the 1950's, the number of cattle in feed lots in the High Plains region was statistically insignificant. By the mid-1970's, however, the region accounted for 40 percent of the nation's total beef production. "Because of its unique geology, the Ogallala Aquifer is not replenishing itself; portions of the aquifer may be exhausted within a decade. Much of the remainder has a life expectancy ranging from 10 to 40 years. "In the neighborhood of two million Americans make the area their home. They work the soil, live in the small farming communities and medium-sized cities which dot the region's landscape, and their means of livelihood hangs in the balance as agricultural production diminishes in tandem with the depletion of Ogallala water. It is a saga of imminent change -- social, economic and personal -- as awesome as that which has come to be called 'the energy crisis."--1981 Peabody Awards entry form.This documentary focuses on the Ogallala Aquifer running dry. As a result, farmers on the High Plains are selling their family farms. The program features an original song about the history of the High Plains and the Ogallala. The narrator gives a background on how the Ogallala Aquifer contributed to the area becoming such rich farmland, and he explains why it is running dry now. A geologist explains how the aquifer formed and what it is composed of. The narrator describes the irrigation and pump technology that allowed farmers to access water from the Ogallala. Experts and farmers talk about how long they can continue to farm on their current land and what they will do when the aquifer runs out of water. The narrator details the proposed solutions to the Ogallala crisis, like a massive canal project to import water to the area. Finally, the question of a national water policy is raised.
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Producing Organization: KNME-TV (Television station : Albuquerque, N.M.)
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Duration: 00:32:59
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Duration: 00:28:38
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Chicago: “The End of an Aquifer,” 1981-12-14, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, New Mexico PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “The End of an Aquifer.” 1981-12-14. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, New Mexico PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: The End of an Aquifer. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, New Mexico PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from