Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Geography and the Environment

First Advisor

Matthew J. Taylor, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

James Clark

Third Advisor

J. Michael Daniels

Fourth Advisor

Hillary B. Hamann


Nicaragua, Political ecology, Tourism, Water security


This dissertation uses a political ecology approach to examine the relationship between tourism development and groundwater in southwest Nicaragua. Tourism in Nicaragua is a booming industry bolstered by ‘unspoiled’ natural beauty, low crime rates, and government incentives. This growth has led to increased infrastructure, revenue, and employment opportunities for many local communities along the Pacific coast. Not surprisingly, it has also brought concomitant issues of deeper poverty, widening gaps between rich and poor, and competition over natural resources. Adequate provisions of freshwater are necessary to sustain the production and reproduction of tourism; however, it remains uncertain if groundwater supplies can keep pace with demand. The objective of this research is to assess water supply availability amidst tourism development in the Playa Gigante area. It addresses the questions: 1) are local groundwater supplies sufficient to sustain the demand for freshwater imposed by increased tourism development? and 2) is there a power relationship between tourism development and control over local freshwater that would prove inequitable to local populations?

Integrating the findings of groundwater monitoring, geological mapping, and ethnographic and survey research from a representative stretch of Pacific coastline, this dissertation shows that diminishing recharge and increased groundwater consumption is creating conflict between stakeholders with various levels of knowledge, power, and access. Although national laws are structured to protect the environment and ensure equitable access to groundwater, the current scramble to secure water has powerful implications on social relations and power structures associated with tourism development. This dissertation concludes that marginalization due to environmental degradation is attributable to the nexus of a political promotion of tourism, poorly enforced state water policies, insufficient water research, and climate change. Greater technical attention to hydrological dynamics and collaboration amongst stakeholders are necessary for equitable access to groundwater, environmental sustainability, and profitability of tourism.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Gary Thomas LaVanchy


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

163 p.


Geography, Water Resources Management, Environmental Science