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Evaluating Economic Impacts of Water Conservation and Hydrological Forecasts in the Salmon Tract, Southern Idaho

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 56(4): 1399-1410. (doi: @2013
Authors:   David J. Hoekema, Jae H. Ryu
Keywords:   Adaptation, Agricultural economics, Climate variability, Drought, Forecasts, Water conservation, Water resources management.
<italic>Abstract. </italic>

As demand for water resources increases in the western U.S., understanding the links between water conservation, hydrologic forecasts, and human response is becoming more critical for effective water resources planning and management. Skillful forecasts are beneficial when annual water supplies are highly variable and normal operations are sensitive to water shortages. This research indicates that skillful forecasts produced by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service enable farmers in a small tract in southern Idaho to plan a crop mix early in the season so as to maximize their net revenue and reduce risk. This research is novel in that it uses system dynamics to model human response to forecast information and then uses climate-driven crop water demand to drive a reservoir operations model. Aquifer recharge from reservoir leakage, delivery system seepage, and inefficiency of irrigation methods is tracked at a weekly time step. When water delivery fails to meet crop water demand, resulting in deficit irrigation, the impact on yields and profit is modeled. An historic analysis of this system indicates that water conservation and forecasts increased the profitability of farmers in this 10,000 to 12,000 ha tract by $2 million and decreased aquifer recharge by 3% during the period from 2000 to 2007. This research indicates the potential to use a highly detailed system dynamics model to understand the economic benefits and costs of water conservation and other water management policies.

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