Coordinated Collaborative Partnerships in Western Water: A Comparative Case Study
Brown, Angela M.
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“Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting,” is a historically common refrain with regard to water rights in the western United States. In the midst of competition and mistrust over limited water resources in the western U.S., two collaborative partnerships formed between municipal water providers in order to manage their respective region’s valuable Common Pool Resource (CPR), water, through joint decision-making (i.e., coordinated implementation strategy). While much has been researched in relation to the endurance of coordinated collaborative partnerships such as these, little has been studied pertaining to their formation. This comparative case study compares and contrasts the formation and endurance of the South Metro Water Supply Authority and the Southern Nevada Water Authority by evaluating the applicability of models developed by Elinor Ostrom. Analysis of documents, oral histories, and semi-structured interviews revealed that while not every pattern was held in common between the partnerships, most of Ostrom’s Appropriator and Resource Attributes (collectively “Ostrom’s Attributes”) were present in the partnerships’ formation processes. The three most commonly held and prevalent Ostrom Attributes were Feasible improvement of resource conditions (R1), Salience of the resource (A1), and Common understanding (A2). Furthermore, the influence of the largest appropriator in the CPR’s emerged as a common theme, supporting that those with the most assets and political influence can promote or impede self-organization. Analysis also demonstrated that the partnerships exhibit characteristics of enduring collaborations. The two most prevalent Ostrom Design Principles for the partnerships were Nested Enterprises (D8) and Collective choice arrangements (D3).