We used a model to simulate the impacts of three groundwater management policies on producers in the High Plains aquifer of eastern Colorado. The model demonstrated how policy costs and benefits will vary in impact across farms in a region according to varying well capacity and ag production conditions.

Results from the three management policies include the following:

1. Water restriction - A water quantity restriction results in the biggest increase in saturated thickness after 50 years. However, higher capacity and profit wells bear the majority of the costs of groundwater conservation under a uniform quantity restriction.

2. Pumping fee - Despite having the smallest impact on producer profits, a pumping fee results in the second-​largest increase in saturated thickness and well capacity. The pumping fee is more cost effective because it provides all wells with an incentive to conserve water while remaining flexible in how water reductions occur.

3. Irrigated acreage fee - The irrigated acreage fee results in the smallest amount of preserved saturated thickness. The costs of groundwater conservation shift to low-​capacity and low-​profit wells, as the low productivity of irrigation water pumped from these wells leads to lower net returns per irrigated acre.

Publication: Hrozencik, R. A., Manning, D. T., Suter, J., Goemans, C. and Bailey, R. (2017), The Heterogeneous Impacts of Groundwater Management Policies in the Republican River Basin of Colorado. Water Resources Research.

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