The Start of Groundwater Irrigation

The Start of Groundwater Irrigation

GroundwaterSince 1910, engines that ran on oil powered most irrigation pumps. Later pumps were powered by gasoline or diesel fuel. Groundwater irrigation began in the 1920s, but wasn’t widely used by farmers until drilling equipment, pumps, and engines improved in the 1930s. Wells for irrigation were usually dug in river valleys where the water was closer to the surface. Farmers who needed deeper wells had to find a well driller with rotary equipment similar to an oil-drilling machine. Nebraska farmers also used water from a few natural springs where groundwater bubbled to the surface. While simple irrigation systems have been used for thousands of years in Africa and Europe to provide a steady water supply to crops, some Nebraska farmers in the 1920s resisted using mechanized systems. Play the Dean Buller interview to find out why.

Cross-section showing underground water


Written by Claudia Reinhardt.

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