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Making Their Own Way: Recognizing the Commons in Water Management Wyoming 1900-1925

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: MacKinnon, Anne
Conference: Capturing the Complexity of the Commons, North American Regional Meeting of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Conf. Date: Sep. 30-Oct. 2
Date: 2010
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/6536
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: North America
Subject(s): institutional change
water management
property rights
Abstract: "In an era of population growth and climate change, when water management is increasingly important worldwide, it can be useful to reexamine how water management schemes have been crafted, and how they have changed, in the past. In the U.S., where management through private property or central government control are the most familiar approaches to natural resources, it is worth considering an example of a different approach. This paper takes up an instance of Americans who changed an institution of centralized state management into an institution with strong attributes of common property management. Such was the case in the years 1900-1925 in Wyoming with management of water, which is there scarce and sought-after. Historical evidence from court cases, state records and correspondence details how and why, in response to their physical and economic environment, Wyoming water administrators and water users together made institutional change. They moved away from their centralized management system, once lauded as a model for the nation, to create a system far more complex - with aspects recognizable to students of common property."

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