Frank W. Haws

Document Type


Publication Date

January 1973


Preface: For the purposes of this study an institution is defined as a formal framework or organization through which men pool their efforts and resources to accomplish specific purposes. Included in this framework is the pattern of organization and authority, the legal structure and the governmental rules and regulations that must be adhered to during the process of reaching the stated goals. The institutions related to water resources are many and varied and include: political governments (state, county, city, etc.); subdivisions of government created by legislative consent such as irrigation districts, special improvement districts, metropolitan water companies (a department in city government); private organizations created by legislative consent such as domestic water utilities, mutual irrigation companies (a special form of corporation), water users association; and gargantuan organizations stemming from the federal government such as the Bureau of Reclamation, the Soil Conservation Service, and the Corps of Engineers. All of the organizations have built-in restrictions and constraints that influence the type of service rendered and the attitudes and motivation of the people who serve. One glaring conclusion that this research have brought to light is that the type of organization does make a difference. Many of the inefficiencies in water use, wasteful water practices, mismanagement of water enterprises, unjust allocation of water resources, long-term public debt and the high cost of public investment into needed or needless projects, can be attributed to the type of organization with the attendant fence s, barriers, internal motivating functions, and policies engendered and perpetuated by it. It can be argued that the organizations are only as effective as the people within the organization, but this study would indicate that in some respects the opposite is more nearly the truth – that the people are only as effective and as efficient as the organization will let them be. Perhaps the political economists have an answer as to why this happens – that it does happen is the conclusion of this study. It has been said that even at the top levels of major water development agencies, new individuals with previous backgrounds in other industries, within a short time take on the policies and direction of the agency and become its advocate. The Bureau of Reclamation, for example, has changed its policies very little in 70 years – but men have changed their policies to fit the Bureau. Similarly, many have chastised the poor, ignorant farmer for the waste and inefficiency in small mutual irrigation companies. This study would suggest that the inefficiency is in the organization – not the farmer. As a final point, the nature and magnitude of the problem must be mentioned. Recognizing that a problem is of organizational origin is on thing – changing that organization is another problem. Knowing where the problem lies will help to formulate a solution. Efforts to have people change against the established purposes and procedures of an organization have usually failed. Rearranging the organizational structure, however, can so shift emphasis and incentives that the desired ends can be accomplished. Maybe, with a new awareness, changing the organizational structure will not be so difficult.