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TR-21

A Study of Institutional Factors Affecting Water Resource Development in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas

W. L. Trock, T. J. Casbeer

Despite numerous studies of and plans for the use of land and water resources of the lower Rio Grande Valley for efficient agricultural production, development has lagged and the production potential has not been realized. Institutional factors--political, legal, economic and cultural--have often been obstacles to the construction of needed water facilities and good management of lands in irrigation. Change in some of these institutions and the introduction of new, more appropriate institutional arrangements can facilitate land and water development and use so that greater efficiency in productive operations is achieved.

A very important legal institution is the water right, yet there has existed considerable confusion about rights in the Valley Water rights need to be clarified as to origin, extent and legality. Certainty in this right is necessary to optimum levels of development of irrigation. This can be accomplished by completion of court action which has proceeded through this decade.

To achieve efficiency in water use, rights should be made negotiable. Some trading or leasing of rights is practiced now on an informal basis. A change or clarification of water law to permit purchase and sale of rights would facilitate exchange so that water would be used in higher value uses. To achieve better management of water in irrigation, it is recommended that rehabilitation of irrigation systems be continued on an accelerated basis. This would include reconstruction of many canals and ditches to include concrete linings, construction of storage areas off the river where feasible, and certainly installation of water meters at points of delivery to users.

To provide for more orderly and efficient planning for and further development of irrigation systems, it is recommended that some consolidation of special districts be accomplished. It seems possible that a single master district might be a logical goal for the many irrigation districts.

Drainage problems could be attacked by a single or small number of irrigation districts that would take on this responsibility, or one or more special drainage districts could be organized for this purpose.

These and other recommendations are the product of this study.

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