Are irrigators different from dryland operators? Insights from a comparative study in Australia

Matthew R. Sanderson, Allan L. Curtis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Social researchers tasked with advising practitioners on effective stakeholder engagement often develop typologies that distinguish operators on key attributes. We build on emerging research exploring the efficacy of occupational identity by investigating a potentially important difference among rural landholders that, to our knowledge, remains untested: irrigated operations and dryland operations. Using primary data collected from a large sample of operators in the North Central region of Victoria, Australia, we compared irrigators with dryland operators across a range of characteristics, controlling for the influence of occupational identity. We find evidence that irrigators tend to hold a stronger business orientation toward their properties and that dryland operators tend to hold stronger environmental concerns. But, it is important not to overdraw contrasts on business-environment tradeoffs. Both place value on financial aspects of their properties and both hold environmental concerns. But, the especially close coupling of life and work among irrigators encourage a stronger orientation toward farming, and the natural resource base, as a means of sustaining livelihoods. We discuss the implications of the findings for future research and for stakeholder engagement efforts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1453-1466
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


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