Common Pools and Common Knowledge: Coordination, Assurance, and Shared Strategies in Community Groundwater Governance

"Innovative approaches to creating shared knowledge about groundwater and irrigated agriculture can contribute to more productive and sustainable resource management. This study looks at the role of knowledge commons in institutional design for a recently-begun project on water commons, drawing on analysis of experience from previous projects in Andhra Pradesh and other parts of India. Groundwater governance can be made more feasible by shifting the focus from controlling withdrawals from wells to informing choices about which crops to grow. Participatory hydrological monitoring of rainfall and well water levels and discussion of community crop-water budgeting estimates, based on pooled information about farmers’ plans, can play a key role, not just in improving information but in changing understanding of the resource, values, and options for its management, changes in 'environmentality.' Satellite remote sensing of rainfall and evapotranspiration can be combined with local knowledge to support decisions for local water management. The role of formal monitoring may be important initially, but sustainability may depend on changing local knowledge and informal practice, without necessarily requiring perpetuation of formal measurement. Coordination and assurance game models show how successful collective action can occur based only on shared strategies coming from the creation of knowledge, without necessarily requiring norms that prescribe what should be done, or rules with enforced sanctions. This study illustrates how an innovative information-based strategy for creating local common knowledge could lead to successful collective action, where top-down regulation has failed, while also showing lessons about how local regulation might further enhance equity and sustainability. It shows the potential for improving the production of knowledge as a local public good, and situations in which shared strategies based on common knowledge could be sufficient to improve management of a water commons."
common pool resources, knowledge commons, groundwater, self-governance, social dilemmas, institutional design