Great Plains Streams Vanish As Farmers Keep Pumping Groundwater

Jul 17, 2017

Streams and rivers in Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska and other parts of the central Great Plains are vanishing as farmers continue to pump groundwater to irrigate their crops.

Groundwater is the lifeblood of Great Plains agriculture. But as farmers pump more, it’s turning nearby creeks into dry riverbeds.

Kurt Fausch, a Colorado State University professor, says in a 60-year span about 350 miles of stream disappeared in eastern Colorado, southwest Nebraska and northwest Kansas. And if farmers keep pumping, another 180 miles could vanish by 2060.

“It’s been kind of a wake-up call to the people who’ve lived there for generations that they’re losing their river,” Fausch says.

Fausch says the vanishing streams are home to native fish species. Some of them have been disappearing too as their habitat diminishes.