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Climate Variability and Water Infrastructure: Historical Experience in the Western United States

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  • Zeynep K. Hansen
  • Gary D. Libecap
  • Scott E. Lowe

Abstract

Greater historical perspective is needed to enlighten current debate about future human responses to higher temperatures and increased precipitation variation. We analyze the impact of climatic conditions and variability on agricultural production in five semi-arid western states. We assemble county-level data on dams and other major water infrastructure; agricultural crop mixes and yields; precipitation and temperature; soil quality, and topography. Using this extensive data set, we analyze the impact of water infrastructure investments on crop mix and yields in affected counties relative to similarly-endowed counties that lack such infrastructure. We find that water infrastructure smoothes agricultural crop production and increases the likelihood of a successful harvest, especially during times of severe drought or excessive precipitation.

Suggested Citation

  • Zeynep K. Hansen & Gary D. Libecap & Scott E. Lowe, 2009. "Climate Variability and Water Infrastructure: Historical Experience in the Western United States," NBER Working Papers 15558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15558
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Deschenes, Olivier & Greenstone, Michael, 2004. "The Economic Impacts of Climate Change: Evidence from Agricultural Profits and Random Fluctuations in Weather," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt6w7242cj, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
    2. Gary D. Libecap & Zeynep Kocabiyik Hansen, 2000. ""Rain Follows the Plow" and Dryfarming Doctrine: The Climate Information Problem and Homestead Failure in the Upper Great Plains, 1890-1925," NBER Historical Working Papers 0127, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Quiroga, Sonia & Iglesias, Ana, 2007. "Projections of economic impacts of climate change in agriculture in Europe," Economia Agraria y Recursos Naturales, Spanish Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 0(Number 14), pages 1-18.
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    Cited by:

    1. Xie, Yang & Zilberman, David, 2015. "Water-Storage Capacities versus Water-Use Efficiency: Substitutes or Complements?," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 211894, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    2. Xu, Kun, 2015. "城市水基础设施与地区收入差异分析
      [Study On the Relationship Between Water Infrastructure in Urban and Regional Income Difference]
      ," MPRA Paper 71077, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. repec:eee:jeborg:v:151:y:2018:i:c:p:62-87 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Sebastián J. Miller & Sebastián Galiani & Omar O. Chisari, 2013. "Optimal Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change in Small Environmental Economies," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4668, Inter-American Development Bank.
    5. Hansen, Zeynep K. & Lowe, Scott E. & Xu, Wenchao, 2014. "Long-term impacts of major water storage facilities on agriculture and the natural environment: Evidence from Idaho (U.S.)," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 106-118.
    6. Olmstead, Sheila M., 2014. "Climate change adaptation and water resource management: A review of the literature," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 500-509.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N5 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries
    • 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-
    • 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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