Playa Conservation

Playas—also called mud holes, buffalo wallows, and lagoons—are the most numerous wetlands in the PLJV region, with more than 80,000 scattered across six states from Nebraska and Colorado south to Texas and New Mexico. Playas are relatively small, round, shallow depressions. Their basins are lined with clay soil, which collects and holds water from rainfall and runoff, creating temporary lakes. Some dry up within days, while others contain water for weeks or months. These important wetlands not only support a diversity of plants and wildlife, including resident and migratory birds, they also support the people who live here by recharging the Ogallala Aquifer and improving the quality of the water that flows through them to the aquifer below.

To work effectively, playas need their basins to be intact, excess sediment removed, and a filtering grass buffer that traps sediment while allowing water to reach the playa. Their ability to function properly and provide benefits to the people and wildlife in this region can be impacted by a variety of modifications and land-use changes. For example, many playas have reduced functionality due to increased sediment accumulation in the basin, agricultural crops being planted through them, and wind energy turbines and infrastructure sited in or near them. But there are many opportunities to work with conservation partners, private landowners, and industry to restore playas so they are able to provide wildlife habitat and aquifer recharge.

You can help too!

  • Read through the information in this section to learn more about playas.
  • Tell others about playas and the benefits they provide for people and wildlife.
  • Contact your local USDA Service Center to learn about Farm Bill programs that help private landowners restore and conserve playas.
  • Contact us for information about how to include playa restoration as part of a municipal water plan or for guidance on how to restore playas.

Information and Resources

Use the links below to learn more about the benefits playas provide and tools to help with playa conservation efforts.