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Public Entrepreneurship: A Case Study in Ground Water Basin Management

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Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Author: Ostrom, Elinor
Date: 1965
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/3581
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: North America
Subject(s): entrepreneurship
water resources
resource management
institutional analysis
public goods and bads
water users' associations
Abstract: "The traditional literature of political science and economics has given little consideration to the strategy used by individuals in organizing public enterprises to provide public goods and services. Economists have long been concerned with entrepreneurship, but have largely confined their analysis of entrepreneurship to the private market economy. Political scientists most often take a governmental agency as given and rarely investigate the problems of undertaking new public enterprises. The perspective of public entrepreneurship was taken in this study in order to better understand the process of launching new public enterprises and of devising a public enterprise system to undertake a ground water basin management program. The study was based primarily upon the use of documentary materials. Increasing salt water intrusion in a ground water basin was the stimulus which evoked the efforts of entrepreneurs to seek public solutions to their common problem. The physical and institutional conditions confronting water producers in the West Coastal Basin of southern California as they began to organize for public action in 1945 is described in an introductory section. Next, the strategies of those who functioned as public entrepreneurs are examined in a case study which involves (1)the organization of a water producers' and users' association to function as a forum for the consideration of common problems, (2) the creation of a municipal water district to provide a supplemental surface supply, (3)the use of litigation to achieve a limited pro-rata rationing of the local ground water resources, (4) the development of institutional arrangements to test the effectiveness of a fresh-water barrier against the sea and to place a prototype barrier into operation along a one-mile section of the exposed coastline, (5) the design and creation of a water replenishment district as a ground water basin management enterprise and (6) the development of a management plan involving the coordinated action of several public water agencies to assure the continued use of ground water supplies in conjunction with imported surface supplies. Finally, the performance of this public enterprise system was evaluated in relation to its capacity (1) to realize its physical objectives, (2) to secure operational agreements with other agencies and (3) to develop an optimal program in terms of economic efficiency. Physical objectives and operating agreements have been attained but a non- optimum program has been developed. The institutional arrangements implicit in the structure of this ground water basin management system have not motivated ground water producers to take full account of the social costs of their actions. By developing a more economic source of water supply than the alternative sources now being developed by state agencies this local ground water basin management program will, to that extent, be an important long-term force contributing to the more efficient use of water resources in Southern California."

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