Economic Tidbits

Factors in Support for Groundwater Management

Groundwater is a common resource shared by users. Management of groundwater, too, is a cooperative venture with user support necessary to be successful. Many factors influence user support, or lack thereof, of groundwater management. Additional costs, lost opportunity, commodity prices, additional management, the time of year, and stress can influence support for management.

A study by researchers at Colorado State University, the University of Rhode Island, and the University of Nebraska examined a few of these factors and how they influenced support for water use restrictions and fees. The researchers surveyed irrigators in the Tri Basin Natural Resources District in Nebraska (Gosper, Phelps, and Kearney Counties) and Colorado asking questions regarding their concerns over commodity prices, weather, input prices, stressors like lack of control or working too many hours, and preferences for groundwater management. To measure any seasonal influences, the surveys were sent at separate times—spring 2020, fall 2020, and spring 2021.

Irrigators’ responses indicated a seasonal nature in their support for groundwater restrictions or fees. Irrigators responding to the survey in the fall were less likely to support use restrictions, 4.7 percent less compared to the average support level, and less likely to support groundwater fees, 8.6 percent less. An increase in commodity prices reduced support for groundwater fees 14.3 percent relative to the average. Heightened concerns over groundwater availability increased support 9.3 percent and concern over weather also increased support.

The implementation of groundwater management is generally controversial. This study sheds light on the relative importance of factors influencing irrigators’ support for management and can help shape future management efforts. Click here for more information.

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