Hybridizing the commons. Privatizing and outsourcing collective irrigation management after technological change in Spain

Marta García-Mollá, Mar Ortega-Reig, Rutgerd Boelens, Carles Sanchis-Ibor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


During the last decades, several regions of the world have experienced an increasingly forceful penetration by commercial service companies into irrigation water management, altering the institutional structures and procedures of common-pool resources management. In many cases, private-sector penetration takes place when water user organizations require a company to implement high-tech water control such as pressurized irrigation systems, as part of ‘modernization policies’. This study focuses on four representative cases of these processes with differing degrees of private-enterprise penetration in the Valencia Region (Spain). The research analyzes the strategies of collective-private confrontation and collaboration that are emerging in irrigator communities, and characterize how they affect the management of these irrigation systems. Results show how private enterprise intrusion has unequally affected the interactions between the different components of these irrigation systems. This has created different hybrids between private and common pool-resources management institutions, as well as different autonomies, dependencies and socio-political subjects. Users’ capacity to guide this coproduction process and maintain local control over their irrigation systems is essential to ensure the stability and preserve the robustness of each irrigation system. The quality of human capital and the recognition of collective water management values makes irrigation entities more robust vis-à-vis external pressures and disturbances, which in some of the cases analyzed have generated major social conflicts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104983
JournalWorld Development
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Common-pool resources management
  • Coproduction
  • Irrigation
  • Outsourcing
  • Privatization
  • Technological change


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