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University of Kansas (2016)

Going with the Flow : Southwest Kansas Farmers and the Declining Ogallala Aquifer

Gray, Benjamin Jerome

Titre : Going with the Flow : Southwest Kansas Farmers and the Declining Ogallala Aquifer

Auteur : Gray, Benjamin Jerome

Université de soutenance : University of Kansas

Grade  : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2016

Résumé
The Ogallala Aquifer provides irrigation water for much of the agricultural industry on the Great Plains. In southwest Kansas, the Ogallala is used to produce corn and other grains, much of which are fed to beef and dairy cattle. This complementary production system is important to the economy of Kansas and the food system of the United States. The use of the aquifer for this purpose since the 1940s has severely depleted it. Although farmers understand their activities are depleting the aquifer, they have been hesitant to commit to the conservation plans the state has proposed. I argue that farmers’ reluctance in this area is the result of their cultural models of agriculture, cooperation, and of the Ogallala aquifer itself—all of which are influenced by their interaction with the social, environmental, and technological factors that are part of industrial agriculture. The Kansas state government also plays an important role in farmers’ decisions. Kansas’s reliance on the concepts of private property and the individual as the basis for water law have created a situation in which they cannot compel farmers to use less water, despite expressing the desire for them to do so. I conclude that conservation of the Ogallala (defined as reduced usage meant to extend its agricultural use) will only be possible with changes to the cultural models that motivate farmers’ decisions and Kansas’s approach to governance. I present evidence that farmers already possess alternative cultural models of cooperation that may be useful in preserving the Ogallala if the state, or farmers themselves, frame the issue of aquifer depletion to be compatible with those models. The state has already signaled its willingness to try new forms of water governance but, absent a radical change in water law, must wait on the farmers to cooperate.

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Page publiée le 3 novembre 2018