How do farmers adapt to water scarcity? Evidence from field experiments

John Asprilla-Echeverria*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This research is about how farmers adapt to water scarcity. Using experimental economics methods, field experiments were carried out in a region exposed to severe water scarcity in Colombia. Willingness of water users to cooperate in conforming to extraction caps, as a means of adapting to water availability declination was calculated. Two information treatment groups were implemented in order to assess water allocation decisions when: (i) the amount of water was reduced and (ii) time before aquifer exhaustion was announced. Extant literature on cooperation in common-pool resources (CPR) has focused on demonstrating to what extent resource users depart from egoistic attitudes. Alternatively, the sustainability of water resources requires more research to further understand cooperative behavior. Since the literature on water scarcity is classified in three orders, namely physical, institutional, and socio-political, behavioral dimensions are suggested as a subdivision of the social order. This, in turn, may help to operationalize strategies aimed at improving adaptation to all orders of scarcity. The quantitative results suggest that farmers are inclined to follow the cap. The main difference between the quantity and time treatments differs in that in the time treatments farmers allocate much more water to be consumed in the future, whereas in the former, they prefer to allocate more water to be consumed in the present. Adaptation options provide favorable inputs for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 6, which is related to water use efficiency. Target 6.4 establishes that, by 2030, water efficiency and extraction sustainability should be accomplished. Thus, water policy interventions might benefit from this contribution. However, since success in water conservation programs might be difficult to achieve due to complexity in human-decision making, more research is needed to deepen our understanding of cooperation drivers in aquifer conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108783
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2024

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