Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version




The High Plains Aquifer (HPA), sometimes known in Nebraska as the Ogallala Aquifer, is an enormous resource underlying 112 million acres across parts of eight states, from South Dakota to Texas.

Our research has previously estimated that irrigation water drawn from the HPA adds at least $2 billion worth of additional crops per year in Nebraska alone, and $3.5 billion across the entire HPA1.

In the years ahead, world population growth will surely increase the pressure for irrigation from the stock of water in the HPA. But pumping that water from the aquifer can increase the depth to groundwater which can cause a number of associated environmental and economic problems.

This raises the important social issue of how much aquifer water should be withdrawn for irrigation.

How much water should be withdrawn from the HPA?

That is a difficult issue to address in general and we do not propose to answer it in this report. But we cannot address that broad question if we do not know how the level of groundwater is affected by irrigation practices and by weather, which are the issues we do address in this research.