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Water 2017, 9(1), 39; doi:10.3390/w9010039

Groundwater Governance and the Growth of Center Pivot Irrigation in Cimarron County, OK and Union County, NM: Implications for Community Vulnerability to Drought

1
Department of Geography, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA
2
Oklahoma Biological Survey, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Karina Schoengold, Ginger Paige and Kristiana Hansen
Received: 2 October 2016 / Revised: 23 December 2016 / Accepted: 5 January 2017 / Published: 11 January 2017
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [6095 KB, 13 January 2017; original version 11 January 2017]   |  

Abstract

Cimarron County, Oklahoma and Union County, New Mexico, neighboring counties in the Southern High Plains, are part of a vital agricultural region in the United States. This region experiences extended periods of cyclical drought threatening its ability to produce, creating an incentive for extensive center pivot irrigation (CPI). Center pivots draw from the rapidly depleting High Plains Aquifer System. As a result, the prospect of long-term sustainability for these agricultural communities is questionable. We use Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems to quantify growth in land irrigated by CPI between the 1950s and 2014, and key informant interviews to explore local perspectives on the causes and impact of such growth. In Cimarron County, OK, CPI increased by the mid-1980s, and has continually increased since. Results suggest adaptation to drought, a depleting aquifer, high corn prices, and less rigid groundwater regulations contribute to CPI growth. Conversely, CPI in Union County, NM, increased until 2010, and then declined. Results also suggest that drought-related agricultural changes and more aggressive well drilling regulations contribute to this decrease. Nevertheless, in both counties, there is a growing concern over the depleting aquifer, the long-term sustainability of CPI, and the region’s economic future. View Full-Text
Keywords: drought; center pivot irrigation; governance; High Plains Aquifer; vulnerability-resilience drought; center pivot irrigation; governance; High Plains Aquifer; vulnerability-resilience
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Wenger, K.; Vadjunec, J.M.; Fagin, T. Groundwater Governance and the Growth of Center Pivot Irrigation in Cimarron County, OK and Union County, NM: Implications for Community Vulnerability to Drought. Water 2017, 9, 39.

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