This study’s results indicate that under current circumstances, the High Plains Aquifer groundwater table is decreasing on average at the rate of 0.47 foot per year, with considerable variation across counties over this aquifer region. The estimated impact of irrigation is anticipated to decrease the water table by an average of 1.24 feet per year. Rainfall recharges and raises the water table by an average of 0.76 ft/​year. Climate change could significantly increase the rate of decline. In a scenario where precipitation falls by 25% and the number of degree days above 96°F doubles, and if groundwater use is unconstrained, groundwater depletion would increase 50% compared to current rates.

Publication: Silva, F., L. Fulginiti, R. Perrin, and K. Schoengold (2019), The Effects of Irrigation and Climate on the High Plains Aquifer: A County-​Level Econometric Analysis. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 55 (5): 1085 – 1101.

This article is part of a JAWRA featured series: Optimizing Ogallala Aquifer Water Use to Sustain Food Systems. 

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