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Irrigation water policy analysis using a business simulation game

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Abstract

Despite numerous studies on farmers' responses to changing irrigation water policies, uncertainties remain about the potential of water pricing schemes and water quotas to reduce irrigation. Thus far, policy impact analysis is predominantly based upon rational choice models that assume behavioral assumptions, such as a perfectly rational profit-maximizing decision maker. Also, econometric techniques are applied which could lack internal validity due to uncontrolled field data. Furthermore, such techniques are not capable of identifying ill-designed policies prior to their implementation. With this in mind, we apply a business simulation game for ex ante policy impact analysis of irrigation water policies at the farm level. Our approach has the potential to reveal the policy-induced behavioral change of the participants in a controlled environment. To do so, we investigate how real farmers from Germany, in an economic experiment, respond to a water pricing scheme and a water quota intending to reduce irrigation. In the business simulation game, the participants manage a “virtual” cash-crop farm for which they make crop allocation and irrigation decisions during several production periods, while facing uncertain product prices and weather conditions. The results reveal that a water quota is able to reduce mean irrigation applications, while a water pricing scheme does not have an impact, even though both policies exhibit equal income effects for the farmers. However, both policies appear to increase the variation of irrigation applications. Compared to a perfectly rational profit-maximizing decision maker, the participants apply less irrigation on average, both when irrigation is not restricted and when a water pricing scheme applies. Moreover, the participants' risk attitude affects the irrigation decisions.

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