Scientists Say Ogallala Aquifer is at Risk
Reuters reported June 15, that Scientist are concerned that Nebraska’s sandhills region and the Ogallala Aquifer are at greater environmental risk if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved by the State Department. Groundwater flow and contamination experts say that this region is especially vulnerable because of the way the oil would mix and contaminate the water in the aquifer, if a spill occurred. The two expert scientists are also professors at the University of Nebraska and on June 6 they sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing their concerns.
“Uncertainty about crude oil plume behavior in waters of the Nebraska sandhills region has practical implications,” wrote John Gates, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Wayne Woldt, an associate professor in Biological Systems Engineering and the School of Natural Resources. “We feel that it is highly desirable to study contaminant risks in the sandhills in a more thorough and systematic way.”
One of the largest concerns is how the pipeline will affect the interconnectedness of the areas sand dunes, wetlands, lakes and the aquifer.
“Groundwater is a pretty mysterious thing for most people because you can’t see it,” Gates said, referring to water hidden below visible lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. “But the groundwater contaminant potential in Nebraska’s sandhills is head and shoulders above all others.”
“People don’t understand the connection in the sandhills,” he continued. “All of those wetlands and rivers are supported by groundwater. The interaction between the two is vast and copious. They are intimately connected.”
This is just one more group of individuals that has weighed in on the debate over the pipeline. If the pipeline is approved, it will run over the aquifer which supplies 27 percent of the irrigation for the entire United States. The debate over the pipeline has consumed concerned Nebraska citizens and politicians alike, leaving many people wanting more exploration into the environmental and economic impacts the pipeline would have on the plains region.