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The Historically Evolving Impact of the Ogallala Aquifer: Agricultural Adaptation to Groundwater and Drought

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  • Richard Hornbeck
  • Pinar Keskin

Abstract

Agriculture on the American Plains has been constrained historically by water scarcity. Post-WWII technologies enabled farmers over the Ogallala aquifer to extract groundwater for large-scale irrigation. Comparing counties over the Ogallala with nearby similar counties, groundwater access increased agricultural land values and initially reduced the impact of droughts. Over time, land use adjusted toward water intensive crops and drought sensitivity increased. Viewed differently, farmers in nearby water-scarce areas maintained lowervalue drought-resistant practices that fully mitigate naturally higher drought sensitivity. The evolving impact of the Ogallala illustrates the importance of water for agricultural production, but also the large scope for agricultural adaptation to groundwater and drought.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 6 (2014)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 190-219

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:6:y:2014:i:1:p:190-219

Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.6.1.190
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