Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Earth System Science & Policy

First Advisor

Haochi Zheng


In recent years there have been dramatic increases in crop prices, which would be expected to have resulted in greater production of crops and increased nitrates in surface water from increased use of fertilizer. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that changing crop prices influence crop production and, consequently, water quality. To do this, the study intended to identify changes in crop cultivation within the Red River of the North Basin, assess whether these crops have contributed to nitrate concentrations and identify how nitrate concentrations would be influenced by alternative economic scenarios. Requisite data were obtained including observed nitrate concentrations within the basin, historical farm economic and production data and physical data such as stream discharge. From these data, two models were developed: a land use – water quality model which identified relationships between the extent and type of crop and nitrate concentrations, and an economic – land use model which predicted land use under various economic scenarios. The projected land use under a specified economic scenario could then be provided to the land use – water quality model to assess how changing economic conditions relate to nitrate concentrations in the Red River of the North Basin.