chapter  9
9Chapter Cost, Benefi t, Price, and Value of Groundwater in Market and Nonmarket Settings
Pages 38

The “value of groundwater” suggests benefi ts from this resource. Is it groundwater that has value or the services that groundwater provides? This question is fundamental to the understanding how the tools of economics apply to resources, and, in this case, to groundwater. Groundwater existed below the ground of Kansas in the central United States for millions of years. The Native Americans hunted over it thousands of years ago. Did they value its existence? Probably and unknowingly, since they may not have used it directly, except when it kept streams fl owing during dry seasons or kept springs fl owing. When the fi rst European Americans came to Kansas, did they value it? Probably not, until they had the knowledge and were able to dig wells and use it fi rst to supply their household and then basic farm needs. After the advent of large capacity pumps in the 1920s, groundwater meant increased agricultural yields from irrigation. The service of these large volumes of groundwater had value where no other readily available water source could be drawn on. The ability of tapping large amounts of water even increased the value of the agricultural land at that time in that location. The conditions ultimately showed that this groundwater production was under competition for a free public good, the only cost of which was considered to be that of extracting it from the ground. So how can the value of groundwater and its services be estimated? Or, is it a priceless good?