Effective Governance for Groundwater Management: An Investigation of Indian and American Governance Approaches

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"Groundwater is a common-pool resource (CPR) that is extremely susceptible to overexploitation because of its difficulty of exclusion and high subtractibility of use. As groundwater is susceptible to overexploitation, it is also susceptible to the ‘tragedy of the commons’ (TOTC). In the tragedy of the commons, Garrett Hardin proposed private-property rights or state control as governance mechanisms capable of sustaining resources. In view of that, this paper seeks to answer: what CPR governance approach(es) are more effective in the management of groundwater? The CPR governance approaches examined in this paper are: self-governing institutions through the commons, privatization governance, and state-led governance. Governance examples from India and America are investigated to shed light on this question. In answering the question, the examples demonstrate that – no one single governance approach stands out from the rest. Firstly, a commons governance approach on resource management is minimal when private-property rights exist, where landowners frequently extract unlimited volumes of groundwater. On the other hand, state-led governance has the potential to be more effective at addressing groundwater problems. Yet, many examples of “too late” state-led governance are evident or in some cases the initiatives lack the inclusion of local communities and stakeholders. As such, this paper reasserts the position that Hardin’s proposed solutions for the TOTC are not full proof, and argues that commons are not effective at managing groundwater in the face of external drivers. Overall, I conclude that a multi-level form of governance is a promising approach for effective groundwater management."
groundwater, governance, tragedy of the commons, privatization, self-governance, common pool resources