Integrated hydro-economic models have been widely applied to water management problems in regions of intensive groundwater-fed irrigation. However, policy interpretations may be limited as most existing models do not explicitly consider two important aspects of observed irrigation decision making, namely the limits on instantaneous irrigation rates imposed by well yield and the intraseasonal structure of irrigation planning. We develop a new modeling approach for determining irrigation demand that is based on observed farmer behavior and captures the impacts on production and water use of both well yield and climate. Through a case study of irrigated corn production in the Texas High Plains region of the United States we predict optimal irrigation strategies under variable levels of groundwater supply, and assess the limits of existing models for predicting land and groundwater use decisions by farmers. Our results show that irrigation behavior exhibits complex nonlinear responses to changes in groundwater availability. Declining well yields induce large reductions in the optimal size of irrigated area and irrigation use as constraints on instantaneous application rates limit the ability to maintain sufficient soil moisture to avoid negative impacts on crop yield. We demonstrate that this important behavioral response to limited groundwater availability is not captured by existing modeling approaches, which therefore may be unreliable predictors of irrigation demand, agricultural profitability, and resilience to climate change and aquifer depletion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Water Science and Technology