New Waves March 2011

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

New Ogallala Aquifer study looks at economics, groundwater use of bioenergy feedstocks

New Ogallala Aquifer study looks at economics, groundwater use of bioenergy feedstocks Biofuel feedstock production in the Texas High Plains could significantly change the crop mix, which could affect regional income and groundwater consumption, according to Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service economists.

Dr. Steve Amosson, AgriLife Extension economist in Amarillo, and Dr. Seong Park, AgriLife Research economist in Vernon, are joining other economists to model the socio-economic effects of climate change on the Ogallala Aquifer.

The project, Economics and Groundwater-Use Implications of Bioenergy Feedstocks Production in the Ogallala Aquifer Program Region, is funded by the Ogallala Aquifer federal research program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service.

“The High Plains’ crops, livestock and meat processing sectors, as well as oil and gas production, literally run on water from the Ogallala Aquifer,” Amosson said. “However, this region is facing an uncertain future, after significant pumping for the past 50 years has caused water tables to fall generally across the aquifer.”

With water demand so strong and the aquifer serving as the primary source of that water, it is important to know how climate change and biofuels development in the future could affect availability, Amosson said.

“Projections of a warmer and drier future for this region threaten to raise cropping water needs and thus, the rate of aquifer depletion, while also lowering the natural recharge,” he said. “The current biofuels policy and associated high commodity prices contribute additional pressures on those water resources.”

The information generated from the two-year project, which began in January 2011, will present a comprehensive characterization of the economic and groundwater implications regarding allocation of limited agricultural land and water between crops and biofuel feedstock production, Amosson said. Then they can determine potential implications for farm income and regional activity.

“We think this study will make a contribution to science addressing the issues of groundwater sensitivity to climate change that are explicitly called out as needing further work in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report on water,” Park said.

Read the full AgriLife Today article.

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