Document Type


Publication Date



University of Colorado Law Review


Eighty-three years after the Dust Bowl, residents of America’s High Plains face a dire threat: their primary aquifer faces depletion, and entire sections of the country are set to run out of groundwater by the end of the century or sooner. The Ogallala Aquifer provides a significant amount of America’s agricultural irrigation water and is a primary source of drinking water for Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. This Article argues that policymakers should slow the Aquifer’s depletion rate by implementing changes to irrigation technology, crop choice, consumer behavior, legal doctrine, and legislation. This Article recommends specific legislative and legal solutions. First, the 2020 Farm Bill should expand water conservation incentives through voluntary metering and withdrawal limits, improved irrigation equipment investments, and high-water crop subsidy eliminations. Second, policymakers should encourage long-term planning through doctrinal changes, such as changing the “safe-yield” time horizon from decades to centuries. Third, Congress should empanel a National Aquifer Commission to spearhead collective management of this precious resource. Fourth, state and federal entities should work together to coordinate both information-gathering processes and reporting on groundwater depletion.