Research and Economic Development, Office of


Date of this Version



Published in: Future of Water for Food: Proceedings of the Future of Water for Food Conference Held at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, May 3-5, 2009. University of Nebraska–Lincoln Office of Research and Economic Development (2009). Copyright © 2009, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.


“The good life in Nebraska has its roots in our water supply. Author and scientist Loren Eiseley once said that if there’s magic on this planet, it’s contained in water,” Goeke said. “I assure you, there’s a lot of magic in Nebraska.”

Groundwater in Nebraska: Goeke described the groundwater “magic” in Nebraska. Groundwater resources comprise less than 1 percent of the world’s total water supply, and more people are competing for that resource. The High Plains aquifer is one of the primary aquifer systems in the U.S., covering more than 174,000 square miles in parts of eight states. Seventy-seven percent of this aquifer is contained in the Ogallala geological formation and is referred to as the Ogallala aquifer. In 1980 the High Plains aquifer stored 3.25 billion acre-feet of water. Sixty-six percent of that was in Nebraska, which covers the thickest portion of the aquifer, 12 percent was in Texas and 10 percent in Kansas. In 1980 the total amount of depletion of groundwater since predevelopment in the High Plains aquifer was 166 million acre-feet. By 2007 depletion was 267 million acre-feet and 52 percent of these depletions were in Texas, where substantial groundwater pumping has occurred since the 1940s. Twenty-three percent of depletions were in Kansas. In Nebraska, areas of decline were offset by areas where groundwater levels rose, so Nebraska accounted for almost none of the total High Plains aquifer depletions. However, from predevelopment to 2007, Nebraska’s groundwater storage capacity has declined 21.4 million acre-feet, a total of 1 percent of the predevelopment water in storage. That means 99 percent of Nebraska’s original water supply is still available, which represents a tremendous opportunity, Goeke said.