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State vs. Local Management of Groundwater: The Cases of California and Nevada

Wen, Christine

Groundwater has unique properties that makes it a valuable case study in management and social cost. This paper contributes evidence to the debate of centralized versus localized regulation of public good, of which groundwater is a special example, in the context of its increasing scarcity. Local agencies usually lack the resources or oversight to adequately monitor and supervise groundwater withdrawal. However, groundwater properties vary widely with different locations and geographies that renders centralized state one-plan-for-all management difficult. Groundwater is public in that it is connected to other parts of the ecosystem and any tampering percolates throughout the system. It is at the same time private because of its relations to land tenure and property rights. This paper looks at groundwater policies in California, where state laws are absent and rule of capture applies, and Nevada, where there is no private ownership of groundwater and the state is responsible for its allocation. The results of spatial and quantitative analysis confirm the hypothesis that patchwork management produces a more spatially uneven trends as well as data collection frequency, as is the case of California. The conclusion is that while cities, counties, and local agencies have the capacity to management groundwater, they should be held accountable for regular data collection and contributing to a unified database. The CASGEM, the California database of groundwater levels that was started in 2012, is a step in the right direction toward a more comprehensive state oversight.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Freeman, Lance M.
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 10, 2014
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