Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-78dcdb465f-bcmtx Total loading time: 1.345 Render date: 2021-04-19T10:58:47.686Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

Disturbance features, coordination and cooperation: an institutional economics analysis of adaptations in the Spanish irrigation sector

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 July 2017

Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
E-mail address:


This paper explores associations between disturbances and cooperative responses in a selection of irrigation associations from Spain. Transaction costs and collective action theories are used to characterize disturbances and responses. Disturbances are characterized by looking at the uncertainty they generate, their frequency, the distance of the transacting partners they affect, and their impact on asset-specific transactions. Responses are assessed based on the collective action tasks they involve and classified into coordination and cooperation responses. A qualitative comparative analysis confirms two pathways that are sufficient for the emergence of cooperation responses. The first path is congruent with transaction costs theory, and points to disturbances that are frequent and asset specific; the second path supports relational theory, and points to disturbances that emerge progressively from within the system. Other patterns include the tendency of irrigation associations to delegate to external entities when disturbances are external and occur frequently; and the adaptation of existing institutions when the disturbances are internal and progressive.

Research Article
Copyright © Millennium Economics Ltd 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


Agrawal, A. (2010), ‘Local institutions and adaptation to climate change’ in Mearns, R. and Norton, A. (eds), Social Dimensions of Climate Change, Washington DC: Word Bank, pp. 173–99.Google Scholar
Anderies, J. M., Ryan, P., and Walker, B. H. (2006), ‘Loss of resilience, crisis, and institutional change: lessons from an intensive agricultural system in Southeastern Australia’, Ecosystems, 9 (6): 865–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Araral, E. (2013a), ‘Does geography matter to institutional choice? A comparative study of ancient commons’, Geoforum, 44: 224–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Araral, E. (2013b), ‘A transaction cost approach to climate adaptation: insights from Coase, Ostrom and Williamson and evidence from the 400-year-old zangjeras’, Environmental Science & Policy, 25: 147–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Araral, E. (2013c), ‘What makes socio-ecological systems robust? An institutional analysis of the 2,000-year-old Ifugao society’, Human Ecology, 41 (6): 859–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Armitage, D. (2005), ‘Adaptive capacity and community-based natural resource management’, Environmental Management, 35 (6): 703–15.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Berkes, F., Colding, J., and Folke, C. (eds) (2003), Navigating Social-Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Boken, V. K., Cracknell, A. P., and Heathcote, R. L. (2005), Monitoring and Predicting Agricultural Drought, New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Bowles, S. (2009), Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions, and Evolution, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
CESA (2012), Informe socioeconómico de la década 2001–2010 en Aragón, Zaragoza: Consejo Económico y Social de Aragón.Google Scholar
Coleman, E. A., and Steed, B. C. (2009), ‘Monitoring and sanctioning in the commons: an application to forestry’, Ecological Economics, 68 (7): 2106–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cox, M. (2014), ‘Modern disturbances to a long-lasting community-based resource management system: the Taos Valley acequias’, Global Environmental Change, 24 (0): 213–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cox, M., Arnold, G., and Villamayor Tomás, S. (2010), ‘A review of design principles for community-based natural resource management’, Ecology and Society, 15 (4): 38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fehr, E. (2004), ‘Human behaviour: don't lose your reputation’, Nature, 432 (7016): 449– 50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fleischman, F., Boenning, K., Garcia-Lopez, G. A., Mincey, S., Schmitt-Harsh, M., Daedlow, K., Lopez, M. C., Basurto, X., Fischer, B., and Ostrom, E. (2010), ‘Disturbance, response, and persistence in self-organized forested communities: analysis of robustness and resilience in five communities in southern Indiana’, Ecology and Society, 15 (4): 9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fowler, J. H. (2005), ‘Human cooperation: second-order free-riding problem solved?’ Nature, 437 (7058): E8–E8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Frey, U. J., Villamayor-Tomas, S., and Theesfeld, I. (2016), ‘A continuum of governance regimes: a new perspective on co-management in irrigation systems’, Environmental Science & Policy, 66: 7381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hagedorn, K. (2008), ‘Particular requirements for institutional analysis in nature-related sectors’, European Review of Agricultural Economics, 35 (3): 357–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Janssen, M. A., Anderies, J. M., and Ostrom, E. (2007), ‘Robustness of social-ecological systems to spatial and temporal variability’, Society & Natural Resources: An International Journal, 20 (4): 307–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Joshi, A. W., and Stump, R. L. (1999), ‘Determinants of commitment and opportunism: integrating and extending insights from transaction cost analysis and relational exchange theory’, Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration, 16 (4): 334–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lam, W., and Ostrom, E. (2010), ‘Analyzing the dynamic complexity of development interventions: lessons from an irrigation experiment in Nepal’, Policy Sciences, 43 (1): 125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lam, W. F. (2006), ‘Foundations of a robust social-ecological system: irrigation institutions in Taiwan’, Journal of Institutional Economics, 2 (02): 203–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levin, S., Barrett, S., Aniyar, S., Baumol, W., Bliss, C., Bolin, B., Dasgupta, P., Ehrlich, P., Folke, C., Grenning, M., Holling, C. S., Jansson, A., Jansson, B.-O., Ler, K., Martin, D., Perrings, C., and Sheshinski, E. (1998), ‘Resilience in natural and socioeconomic systems’, Environment and Development Economics, 3 (02): 221–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lopez Galvez, J., and Naredo, J. M. (eds) (1997), La Gestión del Agua de Riego, Madrid: Fundación Argentaria.Google Scholar
Low, B., Ostrom, E., Simon, C., and Wilson, J. (2003), ‘Redundancy and diversity: do they influence optimal management?’ in Berkes, F., Colding, J., and Folke, C. (eds), Navigating Social-Ecological Systems, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 83105.Google Scholar
Lui, S. S., Wong, Y.-y., and Liu, W. (2009), ‘Asset specificity roles in interfirm cooperation: reducing opportunistic behaviour or increasing cooperative behaviour?Journal of Business Research, 62 (11): 1214–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marshall, G. (2008), ‘Nesting, subsidiarity, and community-based environmental governance beyond the local scale’, International Journal of the Commons, 2 (1): 7597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Menard, C. (2007), ‘Cooperatives: hierarchies or hybrids?’ in Karantininis, K., and Nilsson, J. (eds), Vertical Markets and Cooperative Hierarchies, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 118.Google Scholar
Morgan, D. L. 1997. Focus Groups as Qualitative Research, Volume 16, London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Olsson, P., Folke, C., and Berkes, F. (2004), ‘Adaptive comanagement for building resilience in social-ecological systems’, Environmental Management, 34 (1): 7590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Osés-Eraso, N., Udina, F., and Viladrich-Grau, M. (2008), ‘Environmental versus human-induced scarcity in the commons: do they trigger the same response?’ Environmental and Resource Economics, 40 (4): 529–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ostrom, E. (1990), Governing the Commons, New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ostrom, E., Gardner, R., and Walker, J. (1994), Rules, Games and Common Pool Resources, Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Panchanathan, K., and Boyd, R. (2004), ‘Indirect reciprocity can stabilize cooperation without the second-order free rider problem’, Nature, 432 (7016): 499502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pinilla Navarro, V., and Saez Perez, L. A. (2009), Tendencias recientes en la evolución de las comarcas aragonesas, Zaragoza: Publicaciones de Rolde de Estudios Aragoneses.Google Scholar
Ragin, C. (2000), Fuzzy-Set Social Science, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Ragin, C. C., and Sonnett, J. (2004), ‘Between complexity and parsimony: limited diversity, counterfactual cases, and comparative analysis’, in Kropp, S., and Minkenberg, M., eds., Vergleichen in Der Politikwissenschaft, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, pp. 180–97.Google Scholar
Roggero, M., Bisaro, S., and Villamayor-Tomas, S. (2017) ‘Institutions in the climate adaptation literature: a systematic literature review through the lens of the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework’, Journal of Institutional Economics (submitted).Google Scholar
Salafsky, N., Salzer, D., Stattersfield, A. J., Hilton-Taylor, C., Neugarten, R., Butchart, S. H. M., Collen, B., Cox, N., Master, L. L., O'Connor, S., and Wilkie, D. (2008), ‘A standard lexicon for biodiversity conservation: unified classifications of threats and actions’, Conservation Biology, 22 (4): 897911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Santoro, M. D., and McGill, J. P. (2005), ‘The effect of uncertainty and asset co‐specialization on governance in biotechnology alliances’, Strategic Management Journal, 26 (13): 1261–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schneider, C. Q., and Wagemann, C. (2010), ‘Standards of good practice in qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and fuzzy-sets’, Comparative Sociology, 9 (3): 397418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schoon, M. (2008) Building Robustness to Disturbance: Governance in Southern African Peace Parks, unpublished thesis, Indiana University.Google Scholar
Schoon, M. L., and Cox, M. E. (2011), ‘Understanding disturbances and responses in social-ecological systems’, Society & Natural Resources, 25 (2): 141–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smit, B., and Skinner, M. (2002), ‘Adaptation options in agriculture to climate change: a typology’, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 7 (1): 85114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Streeck, W., and Thelen, K. (2005), ‘Introduction: institutional change in advanced political economies’, in Streeck, W., and Thelen, K., eds., Beyond Continuity: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 339.Google Scholar
Tang, S. Y. (1992), Institutions and Collective Action: Self-Governance in Irrigation, San Francisco, CA: Institute for Contemporary Studies.Google Scholar
Thiel, A., Schleyer, C., Hinkel, J., Schlüter, M., Hagedorn, K., Bisaro, S., Bobojonov, I., and Hamidov, A. (2016), ‘Transferring Williamson's discriminating alignment to the analysis of environmental governance of social-ecological interdependence’, Ecological Economics, 128: 159–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
UN/ISDR (2004), Living with Risk: A Global Review of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).Google Scholar
Varela-Ortega, C., Blanco-Gutiérrez, I., Esteve, P., Bharwani, S., Fronzek, S., and Downing, T. E. (2016), ‘How can irrigated agriculture adapt to climate change? Insights from the Guadiana Basin in Spain’, Regional Environmental Change, 16 (1): 5970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Villamayor-Tomas, S. (2014), ‘Cooperation in common property regimes under extreme drought conditions: empirical evidence from the use of pooled transferable quotas in Spanish irrigation systems’, Ecological Economics, 107 (0): 482–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Williamson, O. (1985), The Economic Institutions of Capitalism, New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
Williamson, O. E. (1991), ‘Comparative economic organization: The analysis of discrete structural alternatives’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 36 (2): 269–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 22
Total number of PDF views: 136 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 13th July 2017 - 19th April 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Disturbance features, coordination and cooperation: an institutional economics analysis of adaptations in the Spanish irrigation sector
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Disturbance features, coordination and cooperation: an institutional economics analysis of adaptations in the Spanish irrigation sector
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Disturbance features, coordination and cooperation: an institutional economics analysis of adaptations in the Spanish irrigation sector
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *