While touting his plan to wean us off foreign oil, Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens makes no bones about being heavily invested in the natural gas he wants us to use in our cars. Nor does he deny the wind generated on his 200,000-acre wind farm would inflate a fortune accumulated selling fossil fuel. But he says little of his intention to market fossil water.
That's what conservationists call finite supplies of water dating to prehistoric times. The Ogallala Aquifer is the largest such supply on our continent. It underlies the Plains all the way from Pickens' North Texas to South Dakota. Thanks to help he obtained from the Texas Legislature, he has stacked the board of a tiny water district. By the power of eminent domain, also granted him by the Legislature, he can force landowners to sell him rights to a 320-mile strip of land connecting him to Dallas. He will pipe the water down the same corridor he plans to use transmitting his wind power.
Water is life, and the rate we're squandering it outpaces even our flagrant waste of oil. This is nowhere so true as on the Great Plains, where withdrawals from the Ogallala threaten to close down most irrigation farming before the end of this century.