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The Moral Economy of Water: A Cross-Cultural Study of Principles for Successfully Governing the Commons

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Trawick, Paul
Date: 2005
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/3864
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: South America
Subject(s): water resources
common pool resources
participatory management
Abstract: "The report summarizes the finidings of a cross-cultural study of three famous irrigation systems in the Costa Blanca region of Spain, which have heretofore thought to be of fundamentally different types. The author found that they are all in fact slight variations on a single type of communal system that dates back to the Moors, and is based on the principles of equity and transparency among water rights and accompanying duties. The differences between the three systesm--Valencia, Alicante and Murcia--were found to be superficial compared to their underlying similarities, which proved to be responsible for their widely noted effectiveness in distributing water efficiently and with a minimum of social conflict. This was also found to be true of the famous 'water market' of Alicante, perhaps the oldest water market in the world. The market did not in fact function on the basis of the law of supply and demand, and the price of water had little or nothing to do with peoples' tendency to obey the rules and respect tradition. In fact, the market did not function well at all; it went bankrupt in 1983 and was abolished officially in 1987 and replaced by a fully communal system which now works on the basis of the same principles as the irrigation systems of Valencia and Murcia."

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