Crop choices made by farmers can make important contributions toward the sustainable management of groundwater resources in drought prone regions. However, farmers who would tend to maximize profits under normal circumstances face a trade-off between the choices of risky but more profitable high water intensive (HWI) crops on one hand and the low risk but less profitable low water intensive (LWI) and drought resistant (DR) crops on the other. In drought-hit regions of South India, institutional programs, such as crop water budgeting and farmer schools, have been promoted to provide support and information to the farmers in helping them make judicious crop choices. A multivariate probit (MVP) analysis reveals that crop water budget exercise and farmer field school participation, in fact, are positively associated with HWI crop choices, whereas participation in soil moisture conservation efforts is positively associated with growing LWI and DR crops. Our findings indicate that the objective of groundwater augmentation through institutional interventions that are solely based on educating and training farmers have been ineffective and have even been providing perverse incentives, and that there is a need for adding water extraction compliance components to such support programs in order for them to be efficacious. © 2015 World Scientific Publishing Company.