High Plains Ogallala Aquifer Study, Lea County, New Mexico
New Mexico participated with five High Plains states and the High Plains Associates in the Six-State High Plains-Ogallala Aquifer Area Study. The purpose of the study was to estimate the economic impacts over a 40-year planning horizon resulting from rapidly rising energy costs and the declining Ogallala aquifer water tables in Lea County.
Four management strategies including a baseline, voluntary water conservation, mandatory irrigation water supply reduction, and interstate importation were evaluated.
For the baseline, the total gross output of all goods and services for Lea County was about $1,520 million in 1977. It is projected to be $2,835 million in 1985, $2,436 million in 1990, $1,427 million in 2000, and $1,170 million in 2020. The differences in gross output among the management strategies are due to changes in the agricultural sectors.
The most important sector is mining which contributed about 64 percent of the total output in 1977. By 1985, it is projected to account for about 55 percent. The expansion in the oil and gas extraction activities (mining sectors) is expected to be a driving force in the local economy with the construction, trade, and service sectors responding to the growth in mining. After 1985, the mining activity is expected to decrease, and by 2020 to contribute about 26 percent. The manufacturing sector is expected to expand faster than any of the other sectors, increasing from $73 million in 1977 to over $318 million in 2020. The agricultural sectors are projected to also increase from $88 million in 1977 to about $155 million in 2020.
The total employment in Lea County in 1977 was 17,234, and is expected to increase to 45,168 by 1985, then decrease to 9,954 by 2020. Trade was the largest employer in 1977 followed by mining. In 1985, construction was projected to be the largest employer. In 1990, trade was again larger, but in 2000 and 2020 the service sector was projected to be the most important.
The alternative management strategies basically had very little impact on the economy of Lea County. The voluntary strategy resulted in total output in 2020 of $8,000 more than the baseline. Mandatory resulted in $1.797 million more than the baseline and the importation strategy had $9.825 million more than the baseline. The impact on employment of the alternative management strategies in Lea County was also minor. The voluntary strategy resulted in 80 more jobs than the baseline in 2020. The mandatory had 77 more than the baseline and the importation had 295 more than the baseline. Population in the county is projected to follow a similar pattern as output and employment. Population under the different management strategies is projected to be slightly higher than the baseline throughout the period, but does not amount to enough to offset the general decline projected over time.Voluntary resulted in 185 more people than the baseline in 2020, mandatory had 239 more people than the baseline, and importation had 873 more people than the baseline in 2020.