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Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

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Department Faculty and Staff Part of Teams to Model Effects of Southeastern Climate Change on Water Usage

Faculty and staff in the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics (AREC) are participating in teams of researchers from other Departments within the University and other universities within the State on two USDA-funded projects designed to promote the resilience of agricultural production in the state to changes in water availability and demand. The first of these two projects (titled “Increasing the Resilience of Agricultural Production in the Tennessee and Cumberland River Basins Through More Efficient Water Resource Use”) is being supported with $4.9 million in federal funding and will seek to answer three primary questions:

  • How do changes in climate, land use and water demand affect the quality and availability of water for agricultural use in Tennessee and across the Southeastern region?
  • How can agriculture best adapt to these changes?
  • What policy, institutional, or technological changes will help ensure that water is available to meet demand in the region over the next few decades?

The project encompasses an array of research, extension and teaching activities across a range of disciplines. The AREC faculty and staff participating in the project also reflect this diversity:

  • Chris Clark and Chris Boyer will lead an effort to survey agricultural producers in the region to learn about their use of water and water-conserving technologies and their willingness and ability to adapt to changes in water availability;
  • Andrew Griffith will work with livestock producers to better understand the use of water in livestock operations and the availability of opportunities to prepare such operations for anticipated changes in water availability;
  • Burton English and Jamey Menard will lead efforts to link changes in economic activity with changes in water use and availability and to understand the economic impacts of changes in the availability of water for the agricultural sector;
  • Dayton Lambert and Lixia He Lambert will develop and use a model of the agricultural sector to project water use by the sector and the impact of changes in water availability on agricultural production;
  • Chad Hellwinckeland Daniel De La Torre Ugarte will lead efforts to use the POLYSYS model to analyze the likely effects of changes in climate and water availability on crop markets;
  • Brad Wilson will provide the programming necessary to connect the various models and data sets needed for the project.

In addition, the project will support a number of graduate students during its five-year duration.  

Learn more about the "New Study to Model Effects of Southeastern Climate Change on Water Usage"


The goal for the second project (“Using Hydro-Economic Modeling to Optimally Allocate Water in the Humid Southeastern U.S.”), which is supported by $660,000 in USDA funding, is to assist agricultural producers, policymakers, and local communities throughout the Southeast with adapting to increased water scarcity by more efficiently allocating water and adopting water-conserving practices and technologies. Specific steps toward this goal include:

  • developing water budgets for select agricultural enterprises in the Southeast;
  • modeling water availability and scarcity across Tennessee;
  • estimating the value of water in different uses;
  • developing and disseminating educational programming to inform county Extension agents, agricultural producers and landowners about water use in agriculture and potential water-saving techniques for different agricultural enterprises;
  • and to enhance the public’s understanding of water availability, use, and scarcity in the region.

Again, a number of AREC faculty and staff are involved in the project:

  • Lixia He Lambert and Dayton Lambertwill lead efforts to develop and apply an agricultural sector model to estimate the economic impact of water and its value to row crop and livestock production;
  • Chris Boyer will work with crop and livestock producers, along with scientists and Extension specialists from a range of disciplines, to develop and disseminate water-use budgets;
  • Burton English and Jamey Menard will lead efforts to estimate the economic value of water in non-agricultural sectors.
  • Chris Clark will serve as Project Director and will work with all of the different project teams to facilitate collaboration and integration.

This project also includes funding to support graduate students during its three-year duration.