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New Nebraska ethanol plants threaten Kansas water supplies

New Nebraska ethanol plants threaten Kansas water supplies
September 5, 2007

Ethanol production is threatening water supplies in the American Midwest reports the Wall Street Journal.

The paper presents the water conflict between corn growers in Nebraska and Kansas owners of underground water wells on the Republican River as an example. As corn acreage expands to meet demand from the booming ethanol market, water needs swell.

“Everywhere farmers grow corn, water is becoming a major concern as ethanol plants ramp up production at a startling rate and the threat of drought is ever-present,” writes Joe Barrett. “A 50-million gallon ethanol plant might use about 150 million gallons of water to make fuel…. That’s why many water experts are more concerned about farmers growing more thirsty corn to meet the extra demand from ethanol than they are about the water used by the distilleries themselves.”

Nebraska is still using more than its share of the river’s water allowed by the law but four new ethanol plants (one under construction, one close to construction, and two planned) will only increase pressure on tight water supplies.

“I guess my question is, will the farmers get enough water?” asked Justin Kent, president of Olympus Energy Group, developer of the planned 55-million-gallon plant. “I know we’ll get enough water for our one plant, but if farmers don’t get enough water that’s a big problem.”

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JOE BARRETT (2007). How Ethanol Is Making The Farm Belt Thirsty. Wall Street Journal September 5, 2007; Page B1