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Think-tank for Resources, Energy, and the Environment:
Science and Policy-related Economic Analysis and Research

Cornell University

Groundwater research by Louis Sears and David Lim receives media attention

Groundwater research by Cornell University TREESPEAR Graduate Research Associate Louis Sears and his mentee, Cornell University TREESPEAR Postgraduate Research Assistant David Lim, has been featured in the Western Farm Press and the Porterville Recorder.

For their research, Louis and David are analyzing groundwater management in California. California is currently experiencing its third-worst drought in 106 years, and the hydrologic effects of the drought will take years to recover. Groundwater management is particularly important in California as the state produces almost 70 percent of the nation's top 25 fruit, nut, and vegetable crops. Most crops in California come from two areas: the Central Valley, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys; and the coastal region, including the Salinas Valley, often known as America's "salad bowl". Farmers in both areas rely heavily on groundwater. An analysis of government policies for California groundwater management would be particularly timely as legislation allowing regulation of groundwater is being implemented gradually in California over the next several years.

Louis and David find that there are possible perverse consequences from California's groundwater management policies. Incentive-based groundwater conservation programs are a prime example of a well-intentioned policy that may have perverse consequences, meaning that they may actually increase rather than decrease groundwater extraction. When designing policies and regulation, policy-makers need to be aware of the full range of implications of their policy, including any potential perverse consequences.

For further reading:

  • Sears, Louis, David Lim, and C.-Y. Cynthia Lin Lawell. (2017). Agricultural groundwater management in California: Possible perverse consequences? Agricultural and Resource Economics Update, 20 (3), 1-3.
  • Sears, Louis, David Lim, and C.-Y. Cynthia Lin Lawell. (forthcoming). Spatial groundwater management: A dynamic game framework and application to California. Water Economics and Policy.
    [Manuscript] [Published paper]
  • Sears, Louis, David Lim, and C.-Y. Cynthia Lin Lawell. (2018). The economics of agricultural groundwater management institutions: The case of California. Water Economics and Policy, 4 (3), 1850003.
    [Manuscript] [Published paper]
  • Sears, Louis, C.-Y. Cynthia Lin Lawell, David Lim, Gerald Torres, and M. Todd Walter. (2022). Interjurisdictional spatial externalities in groundwater management. Working paper, Cornell University.
    [Working paper]
  • Sears, Louis, C.-Y. Cynthia Lin Lawell, Gerald Torres, and M. Todd Walter. (2022). Managing common pool resources: Lessons from groundwater resource extraction in California. Working paper, Cornell University.
    [Working paper]