Farmers restore native grasslands as groundwater disappears

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Biologist Jude Smith stands on a bluff overlooking an empty saline lake at the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge outside Muleshoe, Texas, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The lakes are fed by the Ogallala Aquifer, which has been become increasingly dry because of irrigation and drought. (AP Photo/Mark Rogers)

MULESHOE, Texas (AP) — To avoid Dust Bowl conditions, more farmers are restoring native grasslands in areas where the nation’s largest aquifer is drying up and rainfall is often scarce.

Groundwater from the Ogallala aquifer has sustained farming for generations in the Plains states, even through droughts.

But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to grow crops that require irrigation.

A recent study projects that more than half of currently irrigated land in portions of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma could be lost by the end of the century. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified a Dust Bowl zone where grasslands conservation is a priority.

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