NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Climate Variability and Water Infrastructure: Historical Experience in the Western United States

Zeynep K. Hansen, Gary D. Libecap, Scott E. Lowe

NBER Working Paper No. 15558
Issued in December 2009
NBER Program(s):   DAE   EEE

Greater historical perspective is needed to enlighten current debate about future human responses to higher temperatures and increased precipitation variation. We analyze the impact of climatic conditions and variability on agricultural production in five semi-arid western states. We assemble county-level data on dams and other major water infrastructure; agricultural crop mixes and yields; precipitation and temperature; soil quality, and topography. Using this extensive data set, we analyze the impact of water infrastructure investments on crop mix and yields in affected counties relative to similarly-endowed counties that lack such infrastructure. We find that water infrastructure smoothes agricultural crop production and increases the likelihood of a successful harvest, especially during times of severe drought or excessive precipitation.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15558

Published: Climate Variability and Water Infrastructure: Historical Experience in the Western United States, Zeynep K. Hansen, Gary D. Libecap, Scott E. Lowe. in The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present, Libecap and Steckel. 2011

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