WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is investing $6.5 million in the Ogallala Aquifer region this year to help ranchers and farmers improve water quality and conserve billions of gallons of water, according to a press release.

The funding will be targeted to seven priority areas to strengthen rural economies and support primary water sources, stated the release.

The Ogallala, underlying the Great Plains in eight states, supports nearly one-fifth of the corn, wheat, cotton and cattle produced in the U.S., continued the release.

For years, Ogallala has been the main water supply for the High Plains’ population and is “being depleted at an unsustainable rate,” reported the release.

Through geologic action, the reservoir was created more than a million years ago and covers around 174,000 square miles, noted the release.

"This funding assists conservationists and agricultural producers in planning and implementing conservation practices that conserve water and improve water quality," said Vilsack. "This work not only expands the viability of the Ogallala Aquifer but also helps producers across the Great Plains strengthen their agricultural operations."

Read the entire release here.