Aquifer Depletion and the Cost of Water Conservation: The Southern High Plains of Texas Case

Irrigated agriculture has played a vital role in the development and growth of the Great Plains Region of the United States. The primary source of water for irrigation in this region is the Ogallala Aquifer. The Southern portion of the Ogallala Aquifer is considered exhaustible due to the low level of recharge relative to the quantities of water pumped. Analysis and evaluation of water conservation policies which could extend the economic life of the Ogallala Aquifer in the Southern High Plains of Texas and Eastern New Mexico, and which could contribute to maintaining the viability of the regional economy is important. This study evaluates the impacts of water conservation policies which limit drawdown of the Ogallala Aquifer. County level dynamic optimization models maximizing net present value of net returns to land, management, groundwater, and irrigation systems over a sixty year planning horizon were formulated to evaluate three aquifer drawdown restrictions. The results of this study indicate that because of the differences in hydrologic characteristics and current irrigation levels across counties in the study area, blanket water conservation policies for the region as a whole are likely to be inefficient. This study concludes that for this region, water conservation policies that focus on counties that would deplete the aquifer to less than 30 ft. of saturated thickness possess the lowest implicit cost of conserving saturated thickness.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-22

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