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A glass half empty: Limited voices, limited groundwater security for California.

  • Author(s): Bernacchi, Leigh A;
  • Fernandez-Bou, Angel S;
  • Viers, Joshua H;
  • Valero-Fandino, Jorge;
  • Medellín-Azuara, Josué
  • et al.

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Groundwater is a common pool resource that supports agriculture, human communities, and the environment. Public participation in common pool natural resources management can be affected by media representation of stakeholders and perceptions of identity as a stakeholder. Newspaper media has an outsized influence on framing subject matter, expertise, organizations, and who should participate. Media shapes individual, local, and regional perspectives around resource management and defines potential solutions to natural resources management. This study analyzes media coverage about California's new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to understand impacts on public participation in common pool natural resources management and to identify represented stakeholders and solutions involved in groundwater sustainability. A total of 365 newspaper articles were collected from California newspapers in three readership locations. We also searched for representation of SGMA in Spanish-language publications. Article characteristics were analyzed through qualitative content analysis and quantitative nonparametric analysis. Results indicate bias for featuring agricultural industry, politician, and water managers' voices. Solutions for managing water resources were focused on new supply, demand reduction and infrastructure investment, though novel solutions were also presented. Most newspaper articles included few stakeholders and solutions, illustrating isolated, short narratives about a common pool resource. The trends and gaps in representation in California media coverage may contribute to the public's low levels of engagement in groundwater planning.

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