Graduate Project


A case study on the unsustainable use of the High Plains Aquifer Public Deposited

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  • The High Plains Aquifer, a natural resource critical to the United States economic, energy and food security, faces significant sustainability challenges in the coming years. This case study aims to identify the main causes and consequences of unsustainable use of the High Plains Aquifer. The agriculture industry plays the largest role in present-day use that exceeds the limited natural rechargeability of the aquifer, with policy, economics and environmental factors influencing land and resource use. A federal push toward biofuel crops, inconsistent state groundwater policy, and a massive international agriculture trade network all contribute to excessive groundwater withdrawals that will compromise future generations use of the resource. Government subsidies and a failure to incorporate the scarcity of groundwater into crop prices will likely result in a global malnutrition crisis as groundwater availability diminishes, causing the collapse of a system that populations both inside and outside the US rely heavily upon. This case study concludes with recommendations that draw from tools, programs and systems already in place around the US, as well as from the author’s knowledge curated over a graduate natural resource degree program. Recommendations include increased funding for research and innovation, the formation of a transborder coalition, the use of a common data sharing tool, a change in focus for renewable energy, and a shift from global to local food production.
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