Can Engagement Improve Groundwater Management?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Groundwater use often has external effects on both the environment and future groundwater benefits, leading to overwithdrawal. Ostrom's research on common property resources (CPRs) and related literature indicates that CPR management may improve if users have more information about the groundwater system, more opportunities for communication, and empowerment to regulate. In this paper, we conduct a computer laboratory experiment involving 180 students to evaluate the role of these components of engagement in reducing irrigation withdrawals from an aquifer. Our treatments, which consisted of different levels of information, communication, and empowerment, resulted in decreases in groundwater extraction and increases in irrigation profits over nine-year extraction horizons. Enhanced information and communication also increased the fraction of subjects who voted for and complied with collective action in the form of quotas on pumping levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2150008
JournalWater Economics and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Groundwater depletion
  • engagement
  • experimental economics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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