Analysis of the impacts of well yield and groundwater depth on irrigated agriculture

Timothy Foster, Nicholas Brozovic, Adrian Butler

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Previous research has found that irrigation water demand is relatively insensitive to water price, suggesting that increased pumping costs due to declining groundwater levels will have limited effects on agricultural water management practices. However, non-linear changes in well yields as aquifer saturated thickness is reduced may have large impacts on irrigated production that are currently neglected in projections of the long-term sustainability of groundwater-fed irrigation. We conduct empirical analysis of observation data and numerical simulations for case studies in Nebraska, USA, to compare the impacts of changes in well yield and groundwater depth on agricultural production. Our findings suggest that declining well pumping capacities reduce irrigated production areas and profits significantly, whereas increased pumping costs reduce profits but have minimal impacts on the intensity of groundwater-fed irrigation. We suggest, therefore, that management of the dynamic relationship between well yield and saturated thickness should be a core component of policies designed to enhance long-term food security and support adaptation to climate change.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)86-96
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2015


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