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Precipitating Institutional Change: Drought Sinks In

James Nachbaur

American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellowship Program

March 13, 2014

To what degree do external events open windows for institutional changes? This paper focuses on groundwater management in Texas where, over time, many communities adopted a common framework for a new government organization and adapted it to local conditions. In those communities, groundwater conservation districts modified the prevailing open-access regime and helped water users coordinate. Water issues are exacerbated by droughts. Droughts provided opportunities for change: district formation is found to have been 5.2 times more likely following droughts than following non-drought years. Other factors also drove collective action. Increased groundwater pumping costs, greater value of groundwater stocks as buffers against variable precipitation, and lower farm size inequality facilitated district creation. Finally, smaller counties were more likely to form districts, suggesting that expanding the jurisdiction of a management organization to better match the boundaries of large resources may not always facilitate governance. Results should remind policy entrepreneurs to consider where and when conditions might be more favorable as they allocate their effort.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 41

Keywords: Windows of opportunity, Drought, Collective action, Common-pool resource management, Water, Texas groundwater conservation districts, Institutional change, Inequality, Buffer value of groundwater, Survival time analysis, Panel data

JEL Classification: Q28, Q25, Q38, H11, D02, P48

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Date posted: May 5, 2008 ; Last revised: March 13, 2014

Suggested Citation

Nachbaur, James, Precipitating Institutional Change: Drought Sinks In (March 13, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1128327 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1128327

Contact Information

James W Nachbaur (Contact Author)
American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellowship Program ( email )
Washington, DC 20005
United States
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