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Does Efficient Irrigation Technology Lead to Reduced Groundwater Extraction? Empirical Evidence

UCD-ITS-RP-14-18

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Suggested Citation:
Pfeiffer, Lisa and C.-Y. Cynthia Lin Lawell (2014) Does Efficient Irrigation Technology Lead to Reduced Groundwater Extraction? Empirical Evidence. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 67 (2), 189 - 208

Encouraging the use of more efficient irrigation technology is often viewed as an effective, politically feasible method to reduce the consumptive use of water for agricultural production. Despite its pervasive recommendation, it is not clear that increasing irrigation efficiency will lead to water conservation in practice. In this paper, we evaluate the effect of a widespread conversion from traditional center pivot irrigation systems to higher efficiency dropped-nozzle center pivot systems that has occurred in western Kansas. State and national cost-share programs subsidized the conversion. On an average, the intended reduction in groundwater use did not occur; the shift to more efficient irrigation technology has increased groundwater extraction, in part due to shifting crop patterns.

Keywords: Irrigation efficiency; Groundwater; Water conservation; Agriculture; Aquifer; Irrigation technology; Rebound effect