Information trust and groundwater management: Evaluating the role of formal versus informal information sources in adoption of groundwater conservation practices among California farmers

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Zachary Goldstein , Meredith Niles 


The future of farming in many water-stressed regions will depend in large part upon sustainable management of groundwater. Understanding the drivers associated with uptake of groundwater conservation practices in agriculture is thus critical for policy, programmatic, and technical support development. While a rich body of research has explored farmers’ conservation practice adoption, understanding of groundwater conservation practices is more limited, especially regarding the role of farmer networks and information sources. This study explores how information sources influence the actual and intended adoption of groundwater management practices in California, which instituted a statewide policy in 2014 to regulate and implement groundwater conservation practices. Using survey data from farmers (n=553) in three largely agricultural counties of California, we examine the extent to which farmers’ preferred and actual sources for groundwater policy information are associated with adoption of groundwater conservation practices while controlling for farm and farmer attributes. We find that farmer trust in groundwater policy information from informal sources such as other farmers, social media, and popular media is negatively associated with both current adoption and intended future adoption of groundwater conservation practices. These findings suggest that policymakers and extension agents seeking to spread conservation information could tap into peer-to-peer networks and partner with a diverse range of organizations to ensure that they send trusted information to farmers. This analysis can help build a richer understanding of how farmers’ groundwater management behavior is highly dependent upon social and policy contexts.





agriculture, sustainable agriculture, conservation, farmer behavior, groundwater, groundwater management, california, drought, Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, information networks, information trust


Published: 2023-06-21 03:46


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Data Availability (Reason not available):
Data for the 2019 California farmer survey can be found at the following data depository link:

Conflict of interest statement: