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Addressing agricultural salinity in the American West : harnessing behavioral diversity to institutional design

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dc.contributor.advisor Michael Flaxman. en_US Kock, Beaudry E. (Beaudry Evan) en_US
dc.contributor.other Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning. en_US 2011-08-16T15:26:24Z 2011-08-16T15:26:24Z 2010 en_US 2010 en_US
dc.description Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2010. en_US
dc.description This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections. en_US
dc.description Cataloged from student submitted PDF version of thesis. en_US
dc.description Includes bibliographical references (p. 357-389). en_US
dc.description.abstract Salinity accumulation in the Lower Arkansas Basin (LAB) of Colorado threatens environmental quality, the agricultural economy and the potential for efficient reuse of water. Salinity is a threat to "hydraulic sustainability", since it will affect societal and environmental sustainability in a system heavily dependent on engineered structures for its water supply. Institutional solutions are preferable, being usually cheaper, quicker, and more reversible than infrastructure. Market institutions - water quality trading markets - have been often applied in the past to deal with salinity problems, but have been largely ineffective despite theoretical promise. Explanations for such institutional failure typically assume that stakeholders are boundedly- rational economic actors, but I review evidence that this is empirically unjustified, may be insufficiently explanatory, and precludes consideration of more innovative behavioral change solutions. Through collaborative work with basin stakeholders, I developed an agent-based model - "ArkAgent" - which simulates a water quality trading market; the water use and market interactions of basin actors; and basin hydrology. I conduct experiments to show that a simulated neoclassical market institution is less effective at reducing salinity when we make more realistic provisions for attitudinal and behavioral heterogeneity among resource users. I show that the use of post-hoc informational feedbacks as alternative non-monetary institutional incentives can address this performance issue, even in the face of conflicting economic pressures. I further demonstrate that exploiting social networks in non-economic incentive design can go even further in improving sustainability benefits. This work makes new theoretical contributions by showing how our models of institutional performance are critically dependent on behavioral assumptions; and that consequently our institutions for addressing hydraulic sustainability challenges may have incentives poorly matched to real behavioral complexity. This work also shows how an appropriately designed market institutional intervention in the LAB could achieve salinity reduction benefits over an 8 year period. Many of the model's practical insights are also relevant to large salinity-threatened basins across the western United States. The ArkAgent model provides an example of how we can use collaborative systems modeling and empirically-based behavioral assumptions to develop more robust institutions for sustainability. en_US
dc.description.statementofresponsibility by Beaudry E. Kock. en_US
dc.format.extent 389 p. en_US
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology en_US
dc.relation.requires CD-ROM contains supplemental material for thesis. en_US
dc.rights M.I.T. theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission. See provided URL for inquiries about permission. en_US
dc.rights.uri en_US
dc.subject Urban Studies and Planning. en_US
dc.title Addressing agricultural salinity in the American West : harnessing behavioral diversity to institutional design en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US Ph.D. en_US
dc.contributor.department Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning. en_US
dc.identifier.oclc 746079828 en_US

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