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What is cost of declining MAP aquifer?

Economics team studies the impact of Mississippi Aquifer Plain depletion.

Farmers and leaders of their organizations know the Mississippi Alluvial Plain’s aquifer has been declining in places. But they don’t always know by how much or what economic impact the decline might have.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s five-year Mississippi Alluvial Plain project is attempting to help them have a better understanding of where groundwater supplies are heading, according to Dr. J.R. Rigby, a water resources research hydrologist.

Rigby, who works with the USGS’s Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center in Oxford, Miss., discussed where the MAP project has been and where USGS and USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists hope it will be going in a presentation to the virtual Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference earlier this year.

“Part of the emphasis for MAP was always to try to bring in economics to the picture,” he said. “Our economics team has put out a fact sheet on the economic impact of groundwater and agriculture in the region as we're moving towards the end of the first phase where we're trying to incorporate all of these components into decision support.

“They're also working on cost function models for groundwater and for surface water/groundwater partitioning, and they're looking at developing relationships for regional evaluation of ground water decline.”

The goal is to determine what the economic impact might be when scientists see model forecasts for one foot or 10 feet of decline in the aquifer in the region, “or at least our forecasted impact to the region.

“I think that will help regional decision makers with tough decisions down the road if they see what the economic impact is likely to be,” he said. “A part of that is developing more sophisticated forecasting capabilities.”

In the past, he said, scientists would take whatever the final year in the data was and extend that year into the future when it came to drivers such as crop distribution on the landscape.

“Now our economics team is working to use crop commodity forecasts that come from USDA to go out one or two decades and use those commodity forecasts to better represent what the likely changes in crop distributions will be.”

To watch the presentation in its entirety, visit, and click on the video below the Watch the 2021 Conference heading and go to the 46:16 mark.

TAGS: Crops
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