Earlier studies have estimated that 5.4 million acres (24%) of currently irrigated lands located within the Ogallala aquifer region may be unable to support irrigated agriculture by 2100. To test an often made assumption that irrigated croplands will transition to dryland farming when groundwater is depleted, we mapped projected irrigation losses annually and land use suitability for crops or pasture. As a result of this exercise, we estimate that 13% of the projected land areas anticipated to transition away from irrigated production are not suitable for dryland crop production, primarily because of low quality soils. This study also found that not accounting for land use suitability leads to underestimating groundwater depletion’s potential economic impacts.

Key takeaway: Community and regional land use planning needs to incorporate the possibility that irrigated cropland may transition to non-​irrigated pasture production rather than dryland crop production.

Publication: Deines, J.M., M.E. Schipanski, B. Golden, S. C. Zipper, S. Nozari, C.Rottler, B. Guerrero, V. Sharda (2020). Transitions from irrigated to dryland agriculture in the Ogallala Aquifer: Land use suitability and regional economic impacts. Agricultural Water Management, Volume 233, 30 April 2020, 106061.

This article is part of a special issue titled “Managing the Ogallala” published by Agricultural Water Management that was guest edited by Ogallala Water team members Ryan Bailey, Meagan Schipanski, and Isaya Kisekka.

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