Agriculture, Water, and Institutions: An Investigation of Water Management Policy and its Effects on Water Use by Agriculture in Arizona

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2010: $8,795.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Grant Recipient: Arizona State University
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:
John Anderies
Arizona State University


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: irrigation
  • Education and Training: extension, participatory research

    Proposal abstract:

    The objective of this project is to evaluate the consequences of the 1980 Groundwater Management Act (GMA) for agricultural water conservation and the present-day viability of farming in the central Arizona desert. This project concerns the institutional and policy context in which farmers in Arizona’s managed groundwater areas (called Active Management Areas, or AMAs) make decisions about water use. As demand rises for water in Central Arizona, examining the rules pertaining to groundwater management allows for better insight to the incentives that either promote or impede water efficiency in irrigated agriculture. Restrictions were placed on irrigated agriculture with the passage of the GMA, such as the flat-out prohibition of irrigated acreage expansion in the five AMAs. At the same time, the GMA may buffer some farmers from water stress and make water efficiency less of a priority because of amendments to the Act after 1980. Through an analysis of the various rules and components to the GMA, as well as interviews with farmers and water policy professionals, this project will provide an initial policy recommendation on how current water policy might be revised to enhance agricultural water sustainability in Central Arizona. By eliciting the opinions of Arizona Department of Water Resources personnel, as well as Central Arizona farmers, this project aims to bridge the divide between regulators and farmers to find where the two groups think progress can be made for encouraging more efficient water use in irrigated agriculture.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The research to be conducted and supported by the Western SARE 2010 Graduate Student Research and Education Grant seeks:

    1) To develop a greater understanding on how the Groundwater Management Act (GMA) of 1980 and its ensuing modifications have affected the decision-making of local farmers with Irrigated Grandfathered Rights in the Phoenix AMA in the face of water scarcity and urbanization pressures. Reviewing the available literature as well conducting the Institutional Analysis and Development (Ostrom 2005) framework will contribute to achieving this objective.

    2) To come up with a list of strategies, based off of interviews with farmers as well as water policy professionals, concerning what they believe would encourage more efficient water use on farms. Interview questions will allow interviewees to express strategies they see as effective for encouraging water conservation practices, as well as regulations they think are ineffective at encouraging water conservation.

    3) To communicate and disseminate the data to stakeholders in the water policy and agricultural communities. It is my intention to create a policy prescription paper, or “white” paper, that outlines several key findings from the mail surveys and interview questions to enhance the effectiveness of regulatory groundwater management practices.

    4) Lastly, my master’s thesis will contribute to the water policy arena by conducting a literature review of the back-and-forth struggle to implement and solidify the regulations within the GMA regarding irrigated agriculture in Arizona's AMAs. This will include constructing a timeline from 1980 to the present of the important laws and amendments of the GMA, as well as the rules developed by the Arizona Department of Water Resources to implement those statutes.

    The predicted timeline for these performance targets are as follows:

    1) Gathering all relevant data will ensue from June 2009 to April 2010.

    2) The development of mail survey and interview questions will be undertaken from September through October of 2009. The proper protocols for Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval will be taken during this time as well. Conducting and analyzing the surveys and interviews after IRB approval will likely occur beginning in October 2009 until February 2010 (so as to allow sufficient time to collect and analyze data and incorporate a master’s thesis).

    3) Communicating and disseminating research results will occur over several different dates, beginning in March 2010 at the Water Resources Research Center Annual Conference poster session, as well as in April 2010 with the defense of my master’s thesis. Later presentations will likely go through June 2010.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.