Click the image below to launch an interactive Google Fusion Tables map that shows data on irrigated crop acreage by county in Texas and Kansas from 1985 to 2005. Click the buttons at the top to choose a year. Click a county to learn more about the breakdown of its total irrigated crop acreage into irrigated acreage for corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat, arguably the biggest crops for the Ogallala region.
Note that for some years, the data is missing for one or many of these crops. The difference between the total irrigated crop acreage and the known values for each crop is gray, which are the missing data. The 75 counties that fall within the Ogallala Aquifer are bordered in light blue. (Data gathered from U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)
In terms of irrigation intensity — gallons per acre — the Texas Ogallala region has increased by about 15 percent, from 877 gallons of water per day per acre in 1985 to 1,053 by 2005. In the Kansas Ogallala region, irrigation intensity has been cut in half, from 1,718 gallons per acre per day to 910.
Corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat are shown because they are the most widely grown crops in the Great Plains. Corn – the thirstiest of the five – is generally irrigated, whereas the other crops can be grown with or without supplemental water. Texas grew nearly 2.1 million acres of corn in 2010, which is about 550,000 more acres than were grown in 1985; nearly 400,000 acres of that increase occurred within the Ogallala region, which nearly doubled from 436,000 acres to 829,000 acres. In 1985, 46 percent of the 1.5 million total acres of corn grown were irrigated (more than 700,000 acres irrigated) in Texas as a whole. However, irrigated corn acreage in Texas was nearly cut in half by 2010 to 382,000 acres, which is only 18 percent of the state’s total corn acreage. The majority of this cut happened within the Ogallala region: only 215,000 acres were irrigated there in 2010 compared with 436,000 in 1985. Corn production increased 80 percent (nearly doubling to 277 million bushels) for the entire state and 160 percent for the Ogallala region alone (nearly tripling to 163 million bushels). In other words, corn yields increased significantly, which means the amount produced per harvested acre rose dramatically. Irrigated corn yields have been about double that of non-irrigated acreage in both states, and most yields have increased over time.
Texas produces more than double the number of cattle that Kansas produces, though the cattle production of their Ogallala regions are closer in scale. The number of cattle produced in Texas as a whole has decreased from 14.1 million in 1985 to 13.3 million in 2010. However, there actually has been an increase in cattle that are produced within the Ogallala region of Texas, from 3.2 million to 4 million. Back in 1985, only 23 percent of Texas cattle were produced in the Ogallala region; by 2010, this figure was up to 30 percent. Likewise, the number of cattle produced in Kansas as a whole increased by 140,000 from 1985 to 2010, when total cattle was 6 million. The Ogallala region of Kansas experienced an increase from 2.1 million to 2.8 million. In 1985, 37 percent of cattle were raised in Ogallala region of Kansas, compared with 46 percent in 2010. About 15 gallons per day are used by one cow for bathing and drinking, and that figure is more than the daily usage of some people in developing nations. Additionally, cattle use vast amounts of water indirectly through the food that they consume.
This map was created by Jordan B. Bates and Aubrey Ann Parker, Circle of Blue’s web producer and chief data analyst, respectively. Contributors included Brett Walton of Circle of Blue, with assistance from Sreeram Balakrishnan of Google Fusion Tables. Additional help from Sheng Long and Robert Queen, students with the Columbia Water Center in New York City. Columbia interns were overseen by Upmanu Lall and Margo Weiss. Reach Circle of Blue’s data team at firstname.lastname@example.org/~circl731.
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