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Our Work

Conserving Groundwater  |  Protecting the Land

VISION

The Ogallala Land & Water Conservancy (OLWC)  is the first of its kind. What the OLWC seeks to accomplish is unprecedented—pursuing conservation easements on both groundwater and surface rights.  To our knowledge, no other land trust has sought to pay landowners for the value of the water that resides beneath their land.  As innovators, we recognize that exploring unchartered territory requires extensive study, active research, and risk-taking.  As risk-takers, we will experience some failures and pitfalls along the way to creating novel ways of thinking about conservation easements. However, water is vital for all life. Therefore, every risk we take is worth the cost of reaching our destination to protect natural resources that not only benefit wildlife and habitats but also benefit people by securing essential groundwater and enhancing quality of life. Naturally, through trial and error, we will experience tangible and intangible costs. Some expenditures will lead to a dead end. However, each action taken provides an opportunity to learn and grow moving forward, thereby yielding vital information that benefits the field of research. We believe that the water conservation strategies developed by the OLWC will become a model for other communities and states that rely upon the Ogallala Aquifer and seek to conserve water for future generations while protecting grassland habitats for numerous species of birds and wildlife.

PROTECTING OUR WATER

Water is a precious resource everywhere in the country, but its importance is magnified in New Mexico's arid climate where longer periods of drought and inconsistent precipitation occur. We must secure a groundwater supply while it exists to serve as a supplemental water supply for Cannon Air Force Base, Clovis, and Curry County.  Several studies show that the Ogallala Aquifer is declining at an advanced rate. In April 2022, we metered 53 irrigation wells in the Ogallala Aquifer paleochannel running northwest of Cannon AFB and discovered that we had already lost 20% of the remaining groundwater since 2017. Irrigation farmers in the paleochannel use approximately four (4) times more groundwater than the annual groundwater needs of the City of Clovis.  Therefore, for every year landowners continue pumping their wells to irrigate their crops, we lose approximately four (4) years of remaining groundwater for consumptive use. By paying our initial 10 landowners now to shut down the pumping of their wells, we will save approximately 12 years of water for a total of 11,919,031,200 gallons of groundwater, in just three years. Groundwater savings will continue to increase each year that we enter into additional lease agreements with the remaining landowners for up to three years, with an end goal of entering into conservation easements in perpetuity. 

PROTECTING OUR WILDLIFE

The Ogallala Land & Water Conservancy seeks to conserve over 19,500 acres of vital agricultural land and water in two paleochannels located in Curry County, New Mexico, which provide an essential habitat to a variety of insects, plants, amphibians, and migratory and non-migratory birds through existing native grasslands, wetlands, and streams. The target area is recognized as a corridor for the Lesser Prairie Chicken, with known populations to the South.  There are 24 other known birds in the area, including the Burrowing Owl, Cassin’s Sparrow, Chihuahuan Raven, Chihuahuan Meadowlark, Long-Billed Curlew, and the Common Nighthawk. The grasslands that we are working to protect will also offer habitat to additional migrant and wintering birds such as the Upland Sandpiper and Chestnut-collared Longspur.

Harvest Work
Horse Grazing

PROTECTING OUR LAND

The Ogallala Land & Water Conservancy will be working with landowners to convert irrigated croplands to both pastureland and dry cropland in compliance with the Highly Erodible Land Act.  The initial goal is to secure water within two paleochannels that run northwest and west of Cannon Air Force Base.  This area has over 100 playa lakes and is considered the best option to develop sustainable land and water management strategies, restore and preserve wildlife habitats, and implement monitoring practices, all while supporting playa restorations coupled with effective management strategies that provide water resources to wildlife and contribute to the recharge of the Ogallala Aquifer.

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