Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Agriculture (MAgr)


Applied Economics and Statistics

Committee Chair/Advisor

Michael Vassalos

Committee Member

Dr. Mani Rouhi Rad

Committee Member

Dr. Jordan Suter

Committee Member

Dr. Deberata Sahoo


This thesis combines two papers to provide a better understanding of the effects and management of water scarcity during periods of water shortage. The first manuscript discusses the evolution of water rights across the southeastern United States in response to increasing demands and droughts, while the second manuscript studies the effects of water scarcity on agriculture production in the western US.

The southeastern United States has historically benefited from abundant water supplies, allowing them to apply the riparian doctrine with little regulation. However, in the past few decades, the region has undergone major shifts in water policy. In the first manuscript, I explore the evolution of water policy in nine southeastern states under the riparian rights doctrine. Specifically, I first discuss the changes in the region that may have affected the demand for water. I then discuss that an increase in temporal water scarcity may have resulted in an increase in the magnitude of spatial externalities. Next, I build on the theory of property rights evolving to internalize the externalities associated with the scarcity of resources and show the evolution of water rights across the nine states. Finally, I discuss the direction of the new policies and the drivers for the policy shift. I find that as water scarcity increases, the magnitude of externalities from water scarcity also increases leading to changes in policy to better define property rights.

The second manuscript seeks to investigate the impacts of water scarcity on agricultural production. Irrigation water availability can affect the production of irrigated crops across arid and semi-arid regions. Furthermore, salinity in soil and water bodies affects the productivity of salt-sensitive crops and is a major concern in many irrigated agricultural regions. I study the impact of changes in root zone salinity and irrigation water availability on farmers' crop choice decisions. The study focuses on irrigated agricultural production in the Arkansas River Valley in Colorado, where the salinization of soil, groundwater, and surface water has worsened over the past few decades. I utilize a unique parcel-level panel dataset and a discrete choice modeling approach to study the effect of changes in root zone salinity and water availability on land use and crop choice. The results show that an increase in root zone salinity increases the probability of a parcel being fallowed and decreases the probability of high-value crops such as melons and corn. However, a greater snowpack can decrease the effect of salinity on crop choice.

Available for download on Saturday, August 31, 2024