IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/aecrev/v101y2011i1p64-80.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Institutional Path Dependence in Climate Adaptation: Coman's "Some Unsettled Problems of Irrigation"

Author

Listed:
  • Gary D. Libecap

Abstract

Katharine Coman's "Some Unsettled Problems of Irrigation," published in March 1911 in the first issue of the American Economic Review , addressed issues of water supply, rights, and organization. These same issues have relevance today, in the face of growing concern about the availability of fresh water worldwide. The central point of this article is that appropriative water rights and irrigation districts that emerged in the American West in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in response to aridity to facilitate agricultural water delivery, use, and trade raise the transaction costs today of water markets. These markets are vital for smooth reallocation of water to higher-valued uses elsewhere in the economy and for flexible response to greater hydrological uncertainty. This institutional path dependence illustrates how past arrangements to meet conditions of the time constrain contemporary economic opportunities. They cannot be easily significantly modified or replaced ex post. (JEL N51, Q15, Q25, Q54)

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:1:p:64-80
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.101.1.64
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Libecap, Gary D & Smith, James L, 1999. "The Self-Enforcing Provisions of Oil and Gas Unit Operating Agreements: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(2), pages 526-548, July.
    2. Burness, H Stuart & Quirk, James P, 1980. "Water Law, Water Transfers, and Economic Efficiency: The Colorado River," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 111-134, April.
    3. Libecap, Gary D., 2007. "The Assignment of Property Rights on the Western Frontier: Lessons for Contemporary Environmental and Resource Policy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(02), pages 257-291, June.
    4. Burness, H Stuart & Quirk, James P, 1979. "Appropriative Water Rights and the Efficient Allocation of Resources," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 25-37, March.
    5. Kanazawa, Mark T, 1998. "Efficiency in Western Water Law: The Development of the California Doctrine, 1850-1911," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 159-185, January.
    6. Lueck, Dean, 1995. "The Rule of First Possession and the Design of the Law," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 393-436, October.
    7. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
    8. Robert A. Young, 1986. "Why Are There So Few Transactions among Water Users?," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 68(5), pages 1143-1151.
    9. Johnson, Ronald N & Libecap, Gary D, 1982. "Contracting Problems and Regulation: The Case of the Fishery," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1005-1022, December.
    10. Ellen Hanak, 2003. "Who Should Be Allowed to Sell Water in California? Third-Party Issues and the Water Market," PPIC Research Reports, Public Policy Institute of California, number wtrmkt, dez..
    11. Johnson, Ronald N & Gisser, Micha, 1981. "The Definition of a Surface Water Right and Transferability," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 273-288, October.
    12. Michael D. Rosen & Richard J. Sexton, 1993. "Irrigation Districts and Water Markets: An Application of Cooperative Decision-Making Theory," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 69(1), pages 39-53.
    13. Rose, Carol M, 1990. "Energy and Efficiency in the Realignment of Common-Law Water Rights," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 261-296, June.
    14. Hutchins, Wells A., 1931. "Irrigation Districts, Their Organization, Operation and Financing," Technical Bulletins 163085, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Theesfeld, Insa & MacKinnon, Anne, 2014. "Giving birds a starting date: The curious social solution to a water resource issue in the U.S. West," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 110-119.
    2. Ambec, Stefan & Dinar, Ariel & McKinney, Daene, 2011. "Fixed Water Sharing Agreements Sustainable to Drought," LERNA Working Papers 11.19.353, LERNA, University of Toulouse.
    3. Oberlack, Christoph & Neumärker, Bernhard, 2013. "A diagnostic approach to the institutional analysis of climate adaptation," The Constitutional Economics Network Working Papers 01-2013, University of Freiburg, Department of Economic Policy and Constitutional Economic Theory.
    4. Caballero, Gonzalo, 2015. "Community-based forest management institutions in the Galician communal forests: A new institutional approach," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 347-356.
    5. Eisenack, Klaus, 2016. "Institutional adaptation to cooling water scarcity for thermoelectric power generation under global warming," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 153-163.
    6. Heuson, Clemens & Gawel, Erik & Gebhardt, Oliver & Hansjürgens, Bernd & Lehmann, Paul & Meyer, Volker & Schwarze, Reimund, 2012. "Ökonomische Grundfragen der Klimaanpassung: Umrisse eines neuen Forschungsprogramms," UFZ Reports 02/2012, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ).
    7. Ambec, Stefan & Dinar, Ariel & McKinney, Daene, 2013. "Water sharing agreements sustainable to reduced flows," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 639-655.
    8. Bryan Leonard & Gary D. Libecap, 2016. "Collective Action by Contract: Prior Appropriation and the Development of Irrigation in the Western United States," NBER Working Papers 22185, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Jonathan Yoder & Micheal Brady & Joseph Cook, 2016. "Water Markets and Storage — Substitutes or Complements for Drought Risk Mitigation?," Water Economics and Policy (WEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 2(02), pages 1-21, June.
    10. repec:eee:ecolec:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:148-162 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Garrick, Dustin & Whitten, Stuart M. & Coggan, Anthea, 2013. "Understanding the evolution and performance of water markets and allocation policy: A transaction costs analysis framework," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 195-205.
    12. Ji, Xinde & Cobourn, Kelly M., 2017. "The Economic Benefits of Irrigation Districts under Prior Appropriation Doctrine: An Econometric Analysis of Agricultural Land-allocation Decisions," 2017 Annual Meeting, February 4-7, 2017, Mobile, Alabama 252838, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    13. Olmstead, Sheila M., 2014. "Climate change adaptation and water resource management: A review of the literature," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 500-509.
    14. Hanemann, Michael, 2014. "Property rights and sustainable irrigation—A developed world perspective," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 5-22.
    15. Kousky, Carolyn, 2014. "Informing climate adaptation: A review of the economic costs of natural disasters," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 576-592.
    16. repec:spr:masfgc:v:22:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s11027-015-9699-z is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Heuson, Clemens & Gawel, Erik & Gebhardt, Oliver & Hansjürgens, Bernd & Lehmann, Paul & Meyer, Volker & Schwarze, Reimund, 2012. "Fundamental questions on the economics of climate adaptation: Outlines of a new research programme," UFZ Reports 05/2012, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N51 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:1:p:64-80. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros) or (Michael P. Albert). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.