Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Lee J. Alston
Jonathan E. Hughes
I expand the common pool resource literature by creating and utilizing longitudinal data. I take advantage of historical happenings centering on the Spanish common property irrigation systems called acequias to study the economic performance of various irrigation institutions in the American southwest.
Following a detailed analysis of irrigation statutes and development in New Mexico, I compare and contrast the acequia organization with larger irrigation districts. Utilizing a Social-Ecological System framework, I highlight the distinction between irrigation districts and acequias before I conduct a difference-in-difference hedonic price analysis of counties that formed irrigation districts to those that did not. Using data from U.S. Agricultural Censuses, 1910-1987, I find the districts improve land values by nearly 12 percent due to increased production.
I then consider how the proportional water rights of acequias compare to the more prevalent seniority rights (prior appropriation). I derive testable hypotheses from a theoretical model. I test the model through a natural experiment where acequias developed in New Mexico Territory later are divided by the formation of Colorado, exogenously forcing a subset to be subject to the priority system. Using annual satellite imagery from 1984-2011, I compare performance under various stream flow. As predicted, communal sharing generally performs better, though suffers more during drought.
Last, I consider the importance of population stability in a common-property management system. Empirical work has neither addressed these issues in a dynamic nature utilizing longitudinal data, nor addressed the endogeneity of the user group. Combining satellite imagery and water right transfer records, I build a unique panel data set of 50 acequias in Taos, New Mexico from 1984-2011. With these data I am able to identify the role of repeated interactions and diagnose the extent of omitted variable bias. The acequias are resilient to the new users but struggle to absorb additional users. Notably, there is a positive bias present in cross-sectional treatments--entrants self-select into well performing systems. The statistical results are corroborated through follow up surveys of 17 acequias.
Smith, Steven Michael, "Disturbances to Irrigation Systems in the American Southwest: Assessing the Performance of Acequias under Various Governance Structures, Property Rights, and New Entrants" (2014). Economics Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 49.