First Advisor

Daniel Jaffee

Term of Graduation

Summer 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Environmental Sociology, Groundwater Depletion, Political Ecology, Rural Sociology, Water Scarcity, Wildfire



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 85 pages)


Millions of water wells worldwide risk running dry due to overpumping, drought, and climate change. This study adopts a political ecology framework to investigate how economic structures and power dynamics shape the effects of groundwater depletion in a highly impacted region. It is based on qualitative fieldwork conducted in the Odessa Aquifer region of Washington State. This agriculturally productive region has experienced severe groundwater depletion, endangering communities and threatening water supplies for many, as agribusiness has intensively used deep water wells to irrigate high-value crops. This research addresses three key questions: 1) How do residents and households excluded from irrigation by the Columbia Basin Project experience groundwater depletion? 2) What are the community-level impacts resulting from groundwater depletion in the study region? 3) What potential solutions do respondents envision to address this groundwater crisis? Data analysis revealed three major themes: the challenges faced by individuals and households due to depleted wells, the broader impacts of groundwater depletion on communities, and the tensions among potential responses to the crisis. This study challenges the "naturalization" of environmental degradation and highlights the role of economic structures and power dynamics in the region. It sheds light on the unique challenges faced in this region and contributes to understanding groundwater depletion and its social impacts, providing valuable insights into the underlying dynamics and the need for sustainable solutions.


© 2023 Alexis Lisandro Guizar-Diaz

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