Ogallala Aquifer | What Happens When the Water Runs Out, National Geographic Magazine: No Water for FOUR Years

Agriculture is responsible for 95 percent of aquifer use and families at the fringes of the aquifer feel it. For four years now, approximately 30 families near Clovis, NM,  can no longer get water from their wells and carry water home need for cooking and bathing.  This two-year old has a bubble bath sharing precious water with a family of nine that requires 105 gallons a day.

County Road 5 is the canary in the coal mine for Ogallala depletion. Just across the state line from here are 88,000 wells in the Texas panhandle. Those wells use approximately 200 gallons a minute according to HPWD. When they started irrigating, the wells poured out 1000 gallons a minute. Portales is a medium size city that uses three agricultural wells to give city water to the entire town and purchasing land around the wells to protect the resource.

Across the amount of water used by agriculture at the Texas border is the equivalent of 10,000 towns the size of Portales. When those wells were in full production, it was more like 50,000 cities sucking water just over the state line. A home healthcare worker lives with her daughter and partner and nine other family members require 1over 100 gallons a day to meet their water needs. She hauls water to her home daily using 21 5-gallon blue plastic buckets that she loads into the back of a small pickup truck. A daughter quit her job and returned home to help to carry water when her mother had health issues and she became the primary water carrier.

When the water crisis hit County Road 5 the family thought it was temporary, and they would get a hotel room for the weekend to shower or go to a friends home. As it became obvious the water was never coming back, they quietly started hauling water. One local county commissioners heard about this family’s situation and was aghast at the third world narrative. The commissioner said now there are only 30 or so families in this dire situation and wonders what will happen if the numbers climb to 100 and it becomes public that they running out of water.  “I think everyone will just leave,” he says.