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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Hornbeck & Pinar Keskin, 2014. "The Historically Evolving Impact of the Ogallala Aquifer: Agricultural Adaptation to Groundwater and Drought," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 190-219, January.
  • 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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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Severen, Christopher & Costello, Christopher & DeschĂȘnes, Olivier, 2018. "A Forward-Looking Ricardian Approach: Do land markets capitalize climate change forecasts?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 235-254.
    2. Kyle C. Meng, 2016. "Estimating Path Dependence in Energy Transitions," NBER Working Papers 22536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Suarez, Federico & Fulginiti, Lilyan & Perrin, Richard, 2015. "The Value of Water in Agriculture: The U.S. High Plains Aquifer," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 211644, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    4. Paula Bustos & Gabriel Garber & Jacopo Ponticelli, 2016. "Capital Allocation across Regions, Sectors and Firms: evidence from a commodity boom in Brazil," Working Papers Series 444, Central Bank of Brazil, Research Department.
    5. Shrader, Jeffrey, 2014. "Forecasts and Adaptation," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 170626, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    6. repec:eee:agiwat:v:196:y:2018:i:c:p:114-123 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Bertone Oehninger, Ernst & Lin Lawell, C.-Y. Cynthia & Sanchirico, James & Springborn, Michael, 2016. "The effects of climate change on groundwater extraction for agriculture and land-use change," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, 2016, Boston, Massachusetts 235724, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    8. Wang, Tong & Park, Seong & Jin, Hailong, 2016. "Will Farmers Save Water? A Theoretical Analysis of Groundwater Conservation Policies for Ogallala Aquifer," 2016 Annual Meeting, February 6-9, 2016, San Antonio, Texas 229904, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    9. Solomon Hsiang & Paulina Oliva & Reed Walker, 2017. "The Distribution of Environmental Damages," NBER Working Papers 23882, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Ji, Xinde & Cobourn, Kelly M., 2017. "The Economic Benefits of Irrigation Districts under Prior Appropriation Doctrine: An Econometric Analysis of Agricultural Land-allocation Decisions," 2017 Annual Meeting, February 4-7, 2017, Mobile, Alabama 252838, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    11. Eric C. Edwards, 2016. "What Lies Beneath? Aquifer Heterogeneity and the Economics of Groundwater Management," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(2), pages 453-491.
    12. Danny McGowan & Chrysovalantis Vasilakis, 2015. "Reap What You Sow: Agricultural Productivity, Structural Change and Urbanization," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2015019, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    13. Zaveri, Esha & Wrenn, Douglas H. & Fisher-Vanden, Karen, 2016. "Water in the Balance: The Impact of Water Infrastructure on Agricultural Adaptation to Rainfall Shocks in India," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, 2016, Boston, Massachusetts 236216, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    14. McFadden, Jonathan & Miranowski, John, "undated". "Climate Change Impacts on the Intensive and Extensive Margins of US Agricultural Land," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 170512, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N51 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N52 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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