Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Global warming may profoundly affect temporal and spatial distributions of surface water availability. While climate modelers cannot yet predict regional hydrologic changes with confidence, it is appropriate to begin examining the likely effects of water allocation institutions on society's adaptability to prospective climate change. Such institutions include basic systems of water law, specific statutes, systems of administration and enforcement, and social norms regarding acceptable water-use practices. Both climate and the changing nature of demands on the resource have affected the development and evolution of water allocation institutions in the United States. Water laws and administrative arrangements, for example, have adapted to changing circumstances, but the process of adaptation can be costly and subject to conflict. Analysis of past and ongoing institutional change is used to identify factors that may have a bearing on the costliness of adaptation to the uncertain impacts of global warming on water availability and water demands. Several elements are identified that should be incorporated in the design of future water policies to reduce the potential for disputes and resource degradation that might otherwise result if climate change alters regional hydrology.
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