The North Plains Groundwater Conservation District is facing some critical decisions regarding potential water conservation policies and has asked the Texas AgriLife Extension Service to study the situation, according to Steven Walthour, the district's general manager.
Dr. Steve Amosson, AgriLife Extension economist in Amarillo, will lead a study to evaluate the short-term and long-term economic implications of alternative water conservation strategies being considered by the water district, Walthour said.
The study is sponsored by the water district, Texas Corn Producers, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Cattle Feeders Association and the Texas Association of Dairymen.
Regional water planning projections show the four western counties of the water district will fall well short of having 50 percent of the groundwater remaining in 50 years, Walthour said.
The goal of the study will be to develop and update economic optimization and socio-economic models for each of the eight counties in the district, Amosson said. Economic optimization models on the individual counties will estimate changes in the aquifer and farm net income over a 60-year planning period.
Data for each county will include the number of acres planted in each major crop, the number of irrigated acres, and the percentage of the county overlying the Ogallala Aquifer, he said.
The aquifer characteristics for each county include the average saturated thickness, depth to water, specific yield and recharge, Amosson said. The parameters for each crop will include price, cost of production and yield. Production functions will be developed for each major crop which estimates yield as a response to applied water.
The change in gross receipts for each crop will be input into socio-economic models to evaluate impacts on the county and regional economy, Amosson said. These input-output models utilize a methodology that estimates the linkage between elements of an economy.
These models will be developed, refined or updated to accurately portray the counties in the water district, Walthour said.
Three or four different water conservation strategies will be evaluated using the economic models, and the impacts of each conservation strategy will be estimated for both the next 10 years and 60 years, Walthour said.
Results of the study will provide insight into the changes in producer income and saturated thickness of the aquifer, as well as impacts on regional economic activity, income and employment from each conservation strategy evaluated, he said.
The information gleaned from the study will aid the district’s board of directors as they manage the groundwater within the district in the future, Walthour said.