Regional Economic Impact of Irrigated Versus Dryland and Agriculture in the Texas High Plains
Weinheimer, Justin Andrew
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The Texas High Plains has a long history of generating significant economic activity through agricultural production that is highly dependent on the water resources of the Ogallala Aquifer. Ground water supplies in the region are declining to the point where irrigated agriculture may not be present in the future of many communities in the region. This study evaluates the economic impact of irrigated agriculture in the region compared with dryland and minimally irrigated production. Data collected for crop years 2005 through 2008 from the project, “An Integrated Approach to Water Conservation for Agriculture in the Texas Southern High Plains,” were summarized and grouped into high, low and no irrigation data sets. The economic and employment impacts were then calculated using the IMPLAN input-output model. As was expected, the impacts generated by irrigated agriculture in the study area were considerable. The highly irrigated land in the study area had a gross output $240/acre more than the minimally irrigated and $482/acre more than the dryland. Expanding the results to the entire Texas High Plains yields similar results with a $479/acre reduction in gross output going from irrigated to dryland and a corresponding loss of nearly 7,300 jobs. These results indicate that as the availability of irrigation water from the Ogallala continues to decline, shifts in economic activity are possible. Additionally, any movements in economic base within the Texas South Plains will not be homogeneous as the crop mix, climate, and hydrologic characteristics vary greatly within the region.