Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published by University of Nebraska - Lincoln.


Water Optimizer is a tool for analyzing alternative water management strategies when the available water supply is limited. It can be used by producers to determine the profit maximizing crops to produce and the optimum amount of water to apply to each crop, given a particular water supply. It can also be used to evaluate the economic consequences of public policies which expand or reduce the amount of irrigation.

The Water Optimizer model can compute the profit maximizing strategy for producers located in any county in Nebraska where there is significant irrigation. This can be done for three different soil types (fine, medium and coarse textured), for two types of irrigation systems (gravity and pivot) and for any water cost. The model does this by simultaneously considering seven crops (corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum, alfalfa, edible beans and sunflowers) at all irrigation levels ranging from dryland to fully- watered.

Water Optimizer has been widely used to evaluate management strategies in the Republican and Central Platte basins. In most cases we find that the optimum strategy when water becomes limiting is to continue to irrigate the same acreage and the same crops at less than full irrigation (called deficit irrigation), as long as the water supply for the field is at least 80 percent of the full requirement. When the water supply is less than 80 percent of the full requirement it usually becomes advantageous to plant some acres to a lower water using crop, often soybeans, and/or to reduce the number of acres irrigated. The profit maximizing crop when water is not limited is usually continuous corn, although an irrigated corn and soybeans rotation is sometimes competitive.