Collaborative Governance of Interstate River Basins in the Western U.S.


"This paper examines the institutional processes and mechanisms used by U.S. western states to engage in shared governance of interstate rivers, and the performance of these mechanisms for watershed governance. The most common mechanism used by states to govern shared rivers is a compact, which is a treaty among semi-autonomous governments. Compacts are generally viewed as inflexible, rigid governance structures incapable of responding to changing environmental and institutional settings. Using data from an NSF funded study of 14 western interstate river compacts we examine this claim. In particular, we explore the response of compacts to water conflicts. Water conflicts often emerge in response to changing circumstances - such as the development and use of new sources of water or the emergence of new values - conditions that can challenge the compatibility of compacts as cross-scale governance mechanisms. Yet, we find that members of compacts, closely related water agencies, and compact governments are capable of responding to these conflicts and changing circumstances, contrary to some of the critics of this form of governance. To better understand how these compacts perform, we identify the conditions under which compacts are likely to address conflicts, as well as consider the types of responses to these conflicts that compact parties make."



rivers, riparian rights, water resources