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Water Allocation in Rivers under Pressure

Water Trading, Transaction Costs and Transboundary Governance in the Western US and Australia Dustin Evan Garrick, University of Oxford, UK
Water trading and river basin governance have been upheld as institutional blueprints for allocating water for people, agriculture and ecosystems in a changing climate. Progress has been uneven, however, despite multiple decades of institutional reforms in river basins under pressure from demand, development and droughts. This timely book examines the evolution and performance of water allocation reforms in the Colorado, Columbia and Murray–Darling Rivers. It draws on concepts and evidence about property rights, transaction costs and institutional change to generate lessons about the factors contributing to more adaptive and sustainable water allocation.
Extent: 256 pp
Hardback Price: $120.00 Web: $108.00
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978 1 78100 385 5
Availability: In Stock
Paperback Price: $39.95 Web: $31.96
Publication Date: 2017
ISBN: 978 1 78643 599 6
Availability: In Stock
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  • Economics and Finance
  • Environmental Economics
  • Environment
  • Environmental Economics
  • Environmental Geography
  • Environmental Governance and Regulation
  • Water
  • Geography
  • Environmental Geography
This book compares water allocation policy in three rivers under pressure from demand, droughts and a changing climate: the Colorado, Columbia and Murray–Darling. Each river has undergone multiple decades of policy reform at the intersection of water markets and river basin governance – two prominent responses to the global water crisis often attempted and analyzed separately. Drawing on concepts and evidence about property rights and transaction costs, this book generates lessons about the factors that enable and constrain more flexible and sustainable approaches for sharing water among users and across political jurisdictions.

Despite over 40 years of interest in water markets as a solution to water scarcity, they have been slow to develop. Intensified competition has also stimulated interest in river basins as the ideal unit to manage conflicts and tradeoffs across jurisdictions, but integration has proven elusive. This book investigates why progress has been slower and more uneven than expected, and it pinpoints the principles and practices associated with both successes and failures. Garrick synthesizes theoretical traditions in public policy and institutional economics, to examine the influence of path dependency and transaction costs on water allocation reform. Using evidence from historical sources, public policy analysis and institutional economics, the book demonstrates that reforms to water rights and transboundary governance arrangements must be combined and complementary to achieve lasting success at multiple scales.

The original approach of this book, and its comparison of three prominent sites of reform, makes it an asset to practitioners of water policy, as well as water governance scholars and academics in public policy and economics who are focused on environmental policy, property rights and institutional change.

‘This is an excellent book, filled with thoughtful analysis of the challenges and possibilities for sustainable river basin management and illustrated with vitally important cases from which we all can learn. Dustin Garrick weaves historical, institutional, and economic analysis together in a readable volume that is immensely valuable for anyone interested in natural resource policy and management.’
– William Blomquist, Indiana University – Purdue University, Indianapolis, US

‘This book is a stand out. It shines a light on a public policy question of critical importance: how to generate solutions to poor water governance and make a difference for people who share scarce freshwater resources? It is a book that everyone should read to learn lessons from the Western US and Southeast Australia – two regions with a long history of tackling difficult water planning and allocation challenges.’
– R. Quentin Grafton, The Australian National University

‘Water Allocation in Rivers Under Pressure represents a comprehensive synthesis of insights about water management institutions, spanning centuries, continents, and disciplines. Dustin Garrick is able to understand and communicate the full complexity of the physical and social factors that make water allocation such a “wicked problem.” Based on his comparative analysis of three river basins, Garrick develops nuanced institutional design recommendations that lead to adaptive efficiency. This book is a valuable resource for those who make water policy and for those who research it.’
– Laura McCann, University of Missouri, US

‘Dustin Garrick provides us with an inspiring landmark study of water allocation problems in highly stressed river basins. In a deeply reflected way, he pushes forward the scientific contribution of transaction costs analysis and diagnostics of polycentric governance in regard to addressing and understanding natural resource management problems worldwide.’
– Andreas Thiel, Humboldt University, Germany

‘Water Allocation in Rivers under Pressure goes beyond a simplistic analysis of how the rules governing water allocation on the Columbia, Murray-Darling, and Colorado River systems create difficulties. Garrick helps us understand why those rules operate the way they do, and why they are so difficult to change. His clarity in explaining the roots of our problems can go a long way toward helping us learn to fix them.’
– John Fleck, University of New Mexico, US

‘I commend this book highly to researchers, scholars and higher degree students concerned with the real world dynamics of institutional change in all kinds of common pool resource settings.’
– International Journal of the Commons
Contents; 1. Water Allocation in Rivers Under Pressure: A Large-scale Collective Action Dilemma 2. Water Allocation and Institutional Change in a Transaction Costs World: An Analytical Framework 3. Unlocking the Past: Path Dependency and Intertemporal Costs 4. Emerging Water Markets in the Columbia Basin: Transaction Costs and Adaptive Efficiency in Environmental Water Allocation 5. Maturing Water markets and Public Goods in the
Murray–Darling Basin: Scaling up Water Trading and Transboundary Governance 6. Systemic Risks, Polycentric Responses: Performance, Principles
and Practices Index