Village Institutions to Manage Water: A Randomized Control Trial in Rural India
Last registered on September 04, 2016


Trial Information
General Information
Village Institutions to Manage Water: A Randomized Control Trial in Rural India
Initial registration date
September 04, 2016
Last updated
September 04, 2016 7:07 PM EDT
Primary Investigator
U.C. Santa Cruz
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Climate change threatens the livelihoods of millions of households in arid and semi-arid lands in developing countries. Rain-fed agriculture and mixed farming systems are the dominant form of crop production in semi-arid and dry regions the world over. However, as the planet warms, monsoon rains have become less reliable. Small farmers in dry areas are left vulnerable to unpredictable rainfall, reduced soil fertility, and depleted water tables. Their response is to draw more heavily on streams and groundwater, rapidly depleting these natural resources. As evidence mounts for the effect of climate change on social and ecological systems, policymakers need tested methods of effective water management to help communities adapt and manage their natural resources.

Building off a prior funded baseline data collection effort, the proposed IGC research project represents the midline data collection and analysis for a rigorous and innovative impact evaluation to meet this need. The study uses a randomized control trial (RCT) to measure the impact of an intervention that creates village institutions to manage water use across seasons and leverage government programs to improve irrigation infrastructure. The intervention is implemented by the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), an Indian nongovernmental organization, in the semi-arid regions of the Indian states of Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.

The study is the joint effort of research investigators at the University of California (Santa Cruz), the Cloudburst Group and FES. In Indian villages, water is a communal resource that requires collective management. The intervention creates quasi-governmental village institutions to manage surface and ground water by setting and enforcing rules to protect the resources. Members of these institutions are trained in how individual and group decisions can either conserve or deplete water. By strengthening governance, the intervention aims to overcome the collective action problem of making farmers choose crops and growing practices that, though more difficult, will conserve water. The intervention also trains members of these committees to design and manage projects to build irrigation infrastructure using labor paid for by India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA).

An RCT is used to assess the impact of the intervention. FES randomized its intervention across 132 villages, 82 of which are treated and 50 of which are untreated. Baseline household data were collected in late 2014 and early 2015. The treatment began in each village following baseline household data collection. IGC funds would be used to (1) run a midline panel household survey in October – December 2016, (2) conduct a village survey, and (3) measure the short-term impact of the intervention and identify the channels of impact for the following outcomes of interest:
o Improved natural resource governance
o Greater availability of water
o Differential impacts on women
o Resilience to climate change
o Food security
o Women’s empowerment
o Income

The evaluation results from the study will be:
(1) used by FES to inform and improve the program as it is rolled out to hundreds more villages;
(2) shared with regional government stakeholders in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh;
(3) published in academic journals.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Shenoy, Ajay. 2016. "Village Institutions to Manage Water: A Randomized Control Trial in Rural India." AEA RCT Registry. September 04.
Former Citation
Shenoy, Ajay. 2016. "Village Institutions to Manage Water: A Randomized Control Trial in Rural India." AEA RCT Registry. September 04.
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Experimental Details
The study will measure the impact of an intervention that creates village institutions to manage the use of water across seasons and to leverage government programs to improve irrigation infrastructure. The most basic research question answered by this study is whether such institutions can ameliorate the local effects of climate change.

This study will show whether building the capacity of local village institutions can induce resource use changes that improve agricultural productivity and the total supply of irrigation. FES is setting up quasi-governmental village committees that create and enforce water use rules designed to modify each individual’s cost/benefit analysis in favor of planting drought-resistant crops and seeds. The intervention will also increase the capacity of these institutions to build irrigation infrastructure. The village committees will leverage India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) to build needed irrigation infrastructure. FES will train key officers in the village committees to propose and manage these construction projects.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Household Income (main)
Rules for governing commons, total water used in farming, crop choice, use of water-saving techniques, participation in government, conflict over water
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design

The study uses a randomized controlled trial to measure the impact of the water demand management intervention. The rollout of the intervention has been randomized across a total study window of 132 villages in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan; 50 were randomly chosen as control; the rest were treated. Within Rajasthan the treatment status was stratified on whether the presidency of the Panchayat (local council) was reserved for a woman. Since reservation at this level is randomized within Rajasthan (Chattopadhyay and Duflo, 2004), a stratified design has more power to measure heterogeneous effects based on the gender of the Panchayat president.


Since mid-2014, villages in the treatment group have been receiving the water management intervention while the control villages serve as a valid counterfactual for estimating the effect of the intervention. Villages in five districts in the semi-arid regions of Rajasthan and Andrah Pradesh received the intervention. The Rajasthani districts of Bhilwara, Pratapgarh, and Udaipur are separated by many miles from Anantapur and Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh. Nevertheless, all five are similar in being historically drier than India's other districts, and for having especially suffered from the effects of climate change.

The field partner – FES – is an Indian NGO working to strengthen rural institutions and natural resource governance for improved livelihood outcomes. Since 2013, FES is implementing a water demand management intervention that is defined by three core components with a focus on institutional strengthening. The first step is to create committees in each village with the power to make and enforce rules about the use of water. The committees can set rules about which crops can be grown when rains are bad—for example, rice requires far more water than lentils—and how much water the farmers can draw from common pools. The second step is to give farmers the means to comply with these rules by showing them how they can use less water. FES will train farmers to grow new crops and to plant varieties of traditional crops that require less water. Finally, FES will train the community to leverage existing government programs to improve their access to water. The village committees will be trained to build irrigation infrastructure using labor paid for by the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) Scheme, a federal make-work program.


Baseline household data was collected in 2014/2015 from roughly 1700 respondents prior to the treatment implementation. Within each village roughly 11 households were interviewed in a stratified random sample. Stratification was used to ensure a sufficient household sample size from each of four groups: male-headed households with little or no land (less than 1 hectare), male-headed households with small plots (1 to 2 hectares), male-headed households with large plots (more than 2 hectares), and female-headed households. A village-level survey is scheduled for March 2016 to explore the mechanisms linking the program to the outcomes of interest.
The next step, for which funding is being sought from IGC, is to collect a midline panel household survey in the months of October through December of 2016. Funding for this midline survey is our primary request. Since the baseline survey, all of the villages have received at least one year of treatment. The same questionnaire will be administered to the original respondents from the baseline household survey. To better reveal the mechanisms through which the intervention works, funding is also being sought to collect another round of village level surveys with community leaders from March through May of 2017 (scheduled to be one year after the 2016 village level surveys). Eventually the study hopes to collect a third round of household and village level data to test longer term program effects, but funding for the final round of data is beyond the scope of this application.

Finally, in addition to the surveys, FES will also collect qualitative data to give a more complete picture of the intervention. Within each treated village, FES will collect and translate the terms of references that establish the village committees. FES will collect the bylaws they enact and the minutes of the meetings they hold. It will also collect the record of all decisions made by the village as a whole, as well as the crop water budgets the village creates.

Data Collection:

The impact of the intervention will be measured using two primary survey instruments – a household and village survey. The household instrument asks households about their income, land, crops grown, water used, participation in government, perceptions of climate change, and whether they were aware of rules governing the use of water.

The village survey will be collected by interviewing several key informants in each village—officials and local volunteers—as well as by holding focus groups. The village survey will record the water and forest resources of the village, the precise rules governing the use of each, details about local politicians and officials, and the average participation of households in village government.

Responses to the surveys will be recorded electronically on tablet computers, which have been programmed using Open Data Kit (ODK). From June through August the investigators and activity manager, together with FES, will program Hindi and Telagu versions of the survey. In early September an experienced field manager from Cloudburst will travel to Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh to help FES project managers hire and train survey enumerators. From October to December the enumerators will find the original households surveyed at baseline and interview them for the household survey. Every day a senior research assistant will run simple statistical checks on the quality of the data and guide real-time corrections in the field. These tests are possible because ODK allows the data to be uploaded to a central server as it is collected. These teams will return to the field in March of 2017 to collect the village survey. The research assistants will then prepare the data for analysis.


Since the intervention is randomized, comparing the treatment and control groups will give an unbiased estimate of its effect. The main outcomes of interest will come from the household survey. These will include total income, crops planted, water used, and awareness of rules for water use. The investigators will test for average effects as well as differential effects on female-headed households, landless households, and large landholders. The investigators will run multivariate regressions of the outcomes of interest on an indicator for whether the village was assigned to treatment. The study will maximize power by controlling for baseline values of the outcome and indicators for belonging to each of the clusters on which we stratified the survey. Power calculations run before the intervention suggested controlling for the baseline value yielded more power than household fixed-effects. The standard errors will allow for arbitrary correlation in the error terms within a village.

This regression will yield an "intent-to-treat" estimate, which captures the average effect of planning to run the intervention in a cluster. This effect will differ from the average effect of actually receiving the intervention if, for example, FES is unable to finish the intervention in all treatment clusters. Average effect can be approximated by using instrumental variables, instrumenting for the presence of FES with the indicator for whether the cluster was assigned to treatment. The evaluation will also test whether the potential benefits of the intervention are shared evenly across households with different amounts of land and household heads that are male versus female. The household survey was stratified on these characteristics to maximize the power of these tests (see above).

Since the intervention has three components, the village survey will be used to disentangle the effects of each. The village survey asks detailed questions about the types of rules that govern common resources and the year in which the rules came into effect. It also asks about which projects were planned and built through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. These data will enable a test of whether treated villages are actually passing rules and building infrastructure. Together with data on rainfall, the study can also test whether the new rules and infrastructure are mitigating the effects of low rainfall. The texts of the bylaws will also allow the analysis to gauge what types of rules are passed and may suggest which types of rules are most effective.

Finally, the evaluation can explore whether the gender of the village council president changes the effectiveness of the intervention. India reserves a fraction of Panchayat presidencies for women. Within Rajasthan the seats reserved are randomized. As noted above, the design stratifies the intervention to exploit this random variation. Prior literature suggests that female leaders have different priorities than men, and simply changing the gender of the Panchayat president can change the policies of the village council (Chatopadhyay and Duflo, 2004). The study will test whether a female leader makes the intervention more or less effective.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Revenue village
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
132 villages
Sample size: planned number of observations
1700 Giysegikds
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50 control, 82 treated
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
University of California, Santa Cruz Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers