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.
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