Water Uncertainty and Institutional Constraints Affecting Agricultural Water Use Decisions in the Eastern Snake River Plain

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Andrew Finstuen


In the western U.S., water institutions allocate water for diversion based on the Prior Appropriation Doctrine. Information about how Prior Appropriation affects decisions about water use is important in developing policies that encourage water conservation and increase the economic efficiency with which water is allocated across competing uses. Given that climate change is resulting in increasingly variable water availability, this relationship is especially important to understand. This project examines how Prior Appropriation and weather variability influence the water use decisions made by agricultural irrigators in the Eastern Snake River Plain. I combine data on crop evapotranspiration from the 2009 growing season with detailed data on water rights to estimate a cross-sectional econometric model that captures the effect of Prior Appropriation on water use decisions. The results of the analysis shed light on whether Prior Appropriation affects the ability of irrigators to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

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