Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Systems

First Advisor

Meredith Niles


Climate change has exacerbated groundwater depletion globally, and policymakers have struggled to effectively manage groundwater resources. California enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 to restore groundwater to sustainable levels.

The first paper of this thesis examines the drivers associated with uptake of groundwater conservation practices in agriculture. While a rich body of research has explored farmers’ conservation practice adoption, understanding of groundwater conservation practices is more limited. This study explores how information sources influence the actual and intended adoption of groundwater management practices in California. Using survey data from farmers (n = 553) in three largely agricultural counties of California, we examine the extent to which farmers’ preferred and actual sources for information related to SGMA are associated with adoption of groundwater conservation practices while controlling for farm and farmer attributes. We find that farmer trust in groundwater policy information from informal sources such as other farmers, social media, and popular media is negatively associated with both current adoption and intended future adoption of groundwater conservation practices. These findings suggest that policymakers and extension agents seeking to spread conservation information could tap into peer-to-peer networks and partner with a diverse range of organizations to ensure that they send trusted information to farmers.

The second paper of this thesis assesses local variation in SGMA implementation. The legislation is implemented by local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (or “Agencies”), which can be formed from different kinds of public institutions. Some types of Agencies, such as irrigation and reclamation districts, primarily represent the water interests of farmers, whereas others such as county and municipal governments represent a broader array of interests. We hypothesize that farmers in Agencies governed by farmer-oriented entities are on average more likely to participate in SGMA implementation and have more favorable perceptions of SGMA implementation and dispute resolution options via Agencies. We use mail survey data (n = 424) in three California counties and publicly available geospatial data from the US Department of Agriculture Cropland Data Layer to control for the prevalence of agriculture in an Agency or county. We run three ordered logistic regressions and find that Agency type is not significantly associated with farmer participation in SGMA implementation or perceptions of SGMA implementation or dispute resolution via Agencies. However, whether the farmer is a member of their local Farm Bureau does appear to be a significant positive predictor of participation in and favorable perceptions of SGMA implementation. This suggests that better-connected farmers may be more likely to participate in and benefit from SGMA implementation. Thus, policymakers should consider inequities in political capital both across and within stakeholder groups.



Number of Pages

88 p.