Organizational Strategies in Water Shortage Situations: Mexican Self-Administrated Irrigation Systems

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"Based on a nucleus of 8 in depth case studies with a common methodology (research done by the Colegio de Postgraduados research team and financed by CONACYT) and complemented with other studies that other information about self-management capacities in the administration of irrigation systems, we have a data base of about 20 cases that comprise different Mexican regions, community and multi-community situations, that present efficacy and inefficacy, with irrigated surfaces that go from 10 to 10,000 hectares. All of them comprise situations of non administration by the State, and one case of recent transfer of operation to the irrigators. "In Mexico, not withstanding the millenary tradition of irrigation there are no (or very few) long date irrigation organizations, this is due to (1) the concentration of land and water by the haciendas, and later the break with the Mexican agrarian reform, that created a multitude of new users; (2) the large irrigation systems constructed by the State in the 20th century were from the start operated by a State bureaucracy (so called Irrigation Districts) as they were largely constructed in non populated areas; and (3) the expansion of State operation in 'old' irrigated areas (1950 and 1960) and the State intervention in 'organizing' the irrigators of 'old' irrigated areas (1970 and 1980). "State intervention probably had a good sounding as there is a reported high rate of non use of new infrastructure (up to 75%!). This situation is a good indicative of the difficulties of starting operation of irrigation systems where irrigation is new, in contrast to the organizational capacity in places were irrigation is traditional. "Even so, and based on our 'data base' we find an impressive capacity in self-management; taking the case of strategies followed in situations of water shortage, we find a consistency in the type of organizational strategies, avoiding the alternative of physical violence and contraction of number of irrigators. "The organizational strategies to face water shortage are not formalized in written documents, but, and perhaps more important, they are agreements to which the irrigation community has arrived at. "The are two relevant aspects I wish to point out, the existence of mechanisms to re-assign irrigation water and to use irrigation water with efficacy avoiding the market (lending, preference to crops in danger, sharing between years, and others) and equity mechanisms (such as giving 'complete' water to those with less land)."



IASC, common pool resources, irrigation, self-governance, water resources, scarcity, institutional analysis