In addition to serving as a physical fresh water source for millions of mid-western United States inhabitants, the Ogallala aquifer is also the life sustaining force for the collective American agricultural industry. The United States is currently engineered under a paradigm where sectoral fragments of land are ascribed a specific crop variety and the virtual water embedded in those crop productions are traded internationally. Since the U.S. is the global leader of virtual water volume export, the freshwater provided by this aquifer is not only a critical resource for the eight states within its geographical boundaries, but also for populations dispersed throughout the world. Natural replenishment is insignificant at current extraction rates, and projections estimate depletion in another twenty years. The problem is exacerbated as regional drought forces a heavier reliance on irrigation, yet economic incentives for exporting regions and nutritional dependencies for importing regions encourage the extended exploitation of this precious water resource. Fragile and time consumptive water renewal processes cannot keep up with the stringent irrigation used to cultivate crops within the Ogallala aquifer’s geographical boundaries.
By some perversity of nature, the world’s largest underground aquifers tend to be in arid regions that require excessive irrigation to cultivate crops. Excessive discharge of underground aquifers is a common theme around the world due to the opportunistic disposition of the human species. Progression of international trade dependency amplifies the global distribution of virtually embedded water with each new trade route developed. Stimulating a large export matrix, the Ogallala aquifer is vulnerable to indirect effects of external consumption under the Global Aggregate Perspective. The risks associated with the interdependent nature made manifest by international dependent food commerce are exemplified as exhaustive extraction rates foster adverse effects to not only the Ogallala aquifer’s native inhabitants, but to spatially separated populations as well.
What may currently seem indistinct will come to light with striking contrast in due time. Parasitic overuse and industrial pollution of the Ogallala aquifer presents the world with potential for an environmental disaster. Without solutions that nurture symbiotic relationships between humans and the earth, both of their prosperities are threatened with impermanence.