Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1992


Published in Great Plains Research 2:2 (August 1992), pp. 179-197. Copyright © 1992 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


This study explores the role of groundwater exploitation on population change in the High Plains Ogallala region. Results from several multiple regression analyses are examined to assess the relationship between 1980-1990 population changes in 184 counties with the dominance of irrigated agriculture, change in irrigated acreage, historical population change, farm size change, population density, urbanization, and the level of agricultural employment.

Change in irrigated acreage is significantly associated with population change for Nebraska and for the 90 counties that have an urban place. However, the more important factors are the degree of urbanization among the urban counties and long term patterns of historical change in the nonurban counties. Population has actually increased slightly for the entire region between 1960 and 1990 but has become more concentrated. The findings challenge the feasibility of applying the buffalo commons approach to the Ogallala region. The implications of adopting other regional development policies are discussed.