This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A comparative study of variations in state water policy in response to recurring droughts




Farley, Jonathan

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Political Science

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



The purpose of this study is to investigate how environmental culture, institutional structures, and water distribution have led to differences in water policy innovation, using Texas, California, and Alabama as case studies to understand this variation. This research is relevant for multiple reasons. Droughts have always impacted the western states, but as populations have grown in this region – currently 20 percent of the U.S. population lives within California and Texas alone – the number of Americans at risk from severe drought has increased. Additionally, these states have arrived at vastly different systems of water management due to idiosyncratic cultures and environments. This research adds to the literature by comparing three diverse states who have arrived through different paths to varying levels water policy development. In addition to traditional environmental research, this dissertation adds two new variables for consideration, the environmental distribution of water in each state, and planned adaptation as states learn from each success drought. The variables provide insight as to why each case developed the way that it did, as well as predict success in preventing disastrous drought outcomes. As more states face future water shortages, the ability to diffuse policy from multiple successful, but varied sources is vital match the correct model with each state’s unique environment.