What Lies Beneath? Aquifer Heterogeneity and the Economics of Groundwater Management

Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists
2016 3(2), 453-491


This paper examines the distribution of economic benefits from groundwater management as a consequence of underlying aquifer characteristics. The portions of an aquifer where water moves rapidly, those with high hydraulic conductivity, as well as those that receive less yearly recharge, face a more costly common-pool problem and therefore receive higher benefits from management. The introduction of management districts in Kansas is used to test the effect of underlying aquifer characteristics on changes in agricultural land value, farm size, and crop choice. A landowner in a county with hydraulic conductivity one standard deviation higher sees a relative land value increase of 5%–8% when management is implemented. Counties with lower recharge also see relative increases in land value. Changes in farm size and percentage of cropland in corn are also consistent with the proposition that the effect of management is unequal and depends on properties of the physical system.