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Efficiency in Western Water Law: The Development of the California Doctrine, 1850-1911

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  • Kanazawa, Mark T
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    Abstract

    The development of water law in California has been heavily studied by legal historians. Much interest and controversy has surrounded the fact that early on, California adopted a system of water law that recognizes both riparian and appropriative rights and that persists to this day. How well this hybrid system has promoted in economic efficiency use of water in California has been poorly understood. This article examines the early development of California water law to understand how such a hybrid system emerged and how well it promoted economic growth. The key argument is that nineteenth-century California jurists, though constrained by legislative mandates to observe English common law, worked within the confines of that doctrine to mitigate some of its potential inefficiencies. This article provides empirical evidence that those jurists selectively promoted appropriative claims in situations of high transactions costs in order to encourage reallocation of water from existing riparian uses. Copyright 1998 by the University of Chicago.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Legal Studies.

    Volume (Year): 27 (1998)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 159-85

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:27:y:1998:i:1:p:159-85

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    Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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    Cited by:
    1. Donohew, Zachary, 2009. "Property rights and western United States water markets," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 53(1), March.
    2. Quentin Grafton & Clay Landry & Gary Libecap & Sam McGlennon & Bob O'Brien, 2010. "An Integrated Assessment of Water Markets: Australia, Chile, China, South Africa and the USA," Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy Papers 1009, Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    3. Gary D. Libecap, 2011. "Institutional Path Dependence in Climate Adaptation: Coman's "Some Unsettled Problems of Irrigation"," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(1), pages 64-80, February.

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