Thursday, July 25, 2024

New technology strives to conserve vital water source for Western Kansas

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GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KWCH) – In Western Kansas, water isn’t just a resource, it’s a lifeline. The Ogallala Aquifer, a critical source, is at the heart of agriculture. But without intervention, it could be greatly diminished as a reliable water source in the decades ahead. That has people working on solutions and new technology.

Among those working to make a difference is Jas Dale with Western Kansas Irrigation.

“[We’re trying] to reclaim waters from the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) divisions and recycle that water back to useful cattle drinking water to help save the water from the Ogallala Aquifer,” Dale explained.

Dale and Western Kansas Irrigation showed off their technology on Tuesday at a feed yard east of Garden City. In a trailer, the water from a lagoon goes through multiple screens and filters to take out sediment.

“Then we go up and over the trailer into what is our UV light and this kills the pathogens in the water,” Dale said.

His goal with the technology is to save water, like cattle tank water, before it reaches the lagoon.

“Feed yards aren’t a huge user of water but we certainly use a lot of crops that use a lot of water to be grown, so anything that we can do, even if it’s a small part to conserve the aquifer,” said Irsik & Doll Feed Yard Vice President of Cattle Feeding Brandon Depenbusch.

Dale said what they’re seeing is that as the Ogallala water quantity diminishes, so is the water quality, with sand and iron bacteria. Estimates say that without intervention, 70% of the aquifer would be depleted within 50 years.

“Forty percent of the acres that we’re able to irrigate today, we’d no longer be able to do so,” said Susan Metzger, director for Kansas State University’s Kansas Water Institute. “It’s really important to take the actions now, so that’s not our inevitable future.”

The feed yard east of Garden City isn’t the only place Dale and his team have been able to put their technology, a proof of concept, to the test. Operating from a trailer allows them to go across the county. But Western Kansas is a place where it can be one tool to make a difference.

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