Ostrom - Huerta reading

(Ctools) Ostrom, Elinor, “Huerta Irrigation” pp. 69-76, Governing the Commons

well-demarked irrigation area surrounding nearby towns
chief executive of a single (one of the 7 major canals) irrigation community
water court, with Islamic roots
guards that help syndic enforce regulations
executive committee
(replaced "inspectors" who, in medieval times, assisted with physical punishments) farmers elected to consult with syndic, maintenance decisions, watchdog
turno system
order in which irrigators receive water is fixed, each farmer decides how much water to take, as long as it's not wasted

Environment has always made for limited water, long-term institution for regulating it:

  • Turia River divided into 8 canals serving 16,000-hectare huerta
  • Formal regulations created 1435
  • Rules there before Valencia retaken from Muslims 1238
  • 1,000 years total
  • Variation in flow high, until Generalisimo Dam constrtucted 1951

Rules of Institution

  • Rights to irrigated water decided by type of land: some land has always been irrigated (regadiu), so the right to water is inherent in it; other land is "dry" (secu) and not entitled to water; some land only gets water when it is abundant (extremales)
  • Valencia: land entitled to canal water in proportion to its size

Two tribunal meetings:
1) to judge individual irrigators, assess fines, etc.
Excludes local syndic, other syndics decide on case
Enforces operational rules
2) to coordinate intercanal problems, institutional procedures
Creates operational rules at the cooperative-level

Three conditions of water availability:
1. abundance - farmers can take as much water as they need - rare condition
2. seasonal low water - canals get water on a rotational basis, irrigators get water in their turn - most frequent condition
3. extraordinary drought - farmers expected to take less, farmers whose crops are in most need get the water,
as drought worsens, syndic and representatives take more responsibility for regulating

Monitoring and enforcement

  • farmers can see the irrigator ahead of him in line
  • multiple groups watch each other
  • high enforcement levels to dampen temptation to steal
  • fines are low and variable, based on seriousness of offense, economic conditions, offender's ability to pay
  • first-time fines are lower than those for repeat-offenders

Success of regime

  • Actual violence never reached potential violence
  • Conformance rate was high
  • Most infractions were one-time offenses (2/3), and of the repeaters, those involved in 2 offenses were greater than those involved in 3, etc.
  • Antagonism by enforcers and fellow farmers was rare