Tapped Out: Battling Giants for a Thirsty America

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In Garden City, Kan., 13 men control groundwater across five million acres, overseeing farmland vital for corn, wheat, and sorghum.

Groundwater Management District 3, elected by a small group of large landowners, manages 16.2 trillion gallons since 1996.

A staggering fact: only 12,000 people can vote, leaving out many like Walmart cashiers, teachers, and hospital workers.

Despite an alarming decline in the aquifer, the board hasn't slowed down pumping, raising concerns about the region's future.

From Maryland to Hawaii, groundwater levels are plummeting due to overpumping, underregulation, and exacerbated by climate change.

Lindsay Vaughn, a Kansas state lawmaker, warns of a looming water crisis and advocates for change to avoid dire consequences.

Agribusinesses and big landowners resist, arguing that reducing groundwater access threatens local economies and their bottom lines.

The New York Times investigation uncovers clashes between those favoring large-scale groundwater pumping and those anticipating catastrophe.

In Nevada, Barrick Gold, a major water consumer, exerts influence, contributing $1.7 million in political donations since 1994.

Proposed legislation aiming to regulate water use faces opposition, revealing the complex interplay between industry interests and conservation.

Montana faces a similar struggle, with powerful landowners like the Galts planning developments despite water scarcity, challenging the status quo.

The narrative extends to Kansas, where the struggle intensifies between those with immense groundwater control and advocates pushing for change.

The final revelation: With groundwater depleting across the nation, the federal government's intervention becomes imperative, challenging the status quo.