In recent years it has become increasingly apparent that modem agricultural practices are resulting in a wide array of environmental problems, and in particular resource depletion problems. As of yet, however, there has been a relative lack of research on the adaptations made by farmers when faced with the depletion of an important resource. This paper helps address this void by exploring the adaptations of farmers (N = 700) in the Texas High Plains to the depletion of their primary source of irrigation water--the Ogallala Aquifer. It was found that the proportion of farm operators who had adopted each of the various water conservation techniques varied significantly. Over half of the farmers had reduced the number of times that crops are irrigated each year in response to declining groundwater supplies, while only 13 percent had adopted bench terraces or moisture sensing instruments. Farmers adopting the water conserving technologies that were relatively cheap to implement, but that could reduce the amount of groundwater needed, tended to come from smaller farms and areas where groundwater supplies were not as extensive. On the other hand, farmers adopting more expensive irrigation technologies, such as the center-pivot sprinkler, tended to come from larger farms with a more extensive groundwater supply. Such farms were in a better position to economically justify a major investment into irrigation.

Publication Date