Three essays regarding issues and policies related to groundwater management
Wright, Andrew P.
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Water is a vital resource, not only from a biological standpoint, but also as an input in industries such as agriculture and manufacturing. As such, in any single location there may be multiple interests competing for the use of the same water resource, and how to allocate that resource is not a simple question. Society must not only consider the value of the resource to competing interests, but also issues such as who owns the resource and what value the resource might have in the future. This final question is of particular importance when the water resource in question is a stock resource with limited renewability. The challenge for society, then, is to not only ensure that water is efficiently allocated in one time period, but in all time periods. This is especially true on the relatively sparsely populated, but agriculturally intensive Texas High Plains. The Texas High Plains (THP) is a semi-arid region that relies on water from the Ogallala Aquifer for irrigation purposes. To ensure the long term viability of the aquifer as a resource, policy makers at the state and local level have taken measures to ensure its viability as a resource in the future via public policy. The structure of these policies will have a direct impact on how succesful they are at conserving water and on how they affect producers. How a policy is structured will determine how a target group responds to incentives; and, how the group reacts to those incentives will affect the success or failure of the policy. At the same time underlying linkages with other issues may lead to a policy having unintended consequences that affect individuals outside of the target group. Therefore, the key to developing successful water management policy is to understand the issues, linkages, and consequences related to policy decisions. This dissertation will examine three such issues concerning the development of water management policy in three essays. The first essay studies the linkages between carbon reduction and agricultural production, including how carbon reduction policies might change patterns of water use in agriculture. The results show that when carbon emissions are reduced by 15% land allocation across crops only changes slightly, but total planted acres and the amount of water used for irrigated agriculture is reduced by 20%. The second essay uses experimental methods to test the use of voluntary incentive mechanisms to develop larger conservation zones over aquifers. Participants responded as expected to the given incentives, indicating that a program to create large contiguous areas of groundwater conservation could be developed. The final essay studies how spatial spillovers affect the adoption and diffusion of irrigation technology across THP counties. Ultimately, no evidence was found that adoption practices in a county affected its neighbors; however, geographic location does matter to who adopts and when.