Unintended Water Allocation: Gaining Share from Indirect Action and Inaction

Virginia Hooper, Bruce Lankford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter argues that two types of process affect the allocation of water between users. The first of these are a set of intentional strategies, which dominate the literature on water allocation. These include institutional allocating mechanisms and the purposeful appropriation of water. The second type of process is unintended and occurs through indirect action or inaction. Through this second type of process, people, sectors, and places nevertheless gain water share. Unintended allocation arises from within the ungoverned spaces and “wicked problems” of land and water transformations in two interrelated ways: (1) via external changes in non-water sectors and (2) via internal changes within the water management sector. This unintended or hidden type of water allocation process is largely overlooked. Yet, it is potentially important because volumes of water moved through unintentional allocation can be large, and it can undermine well-intentioned policy interventions in the water and land management sectors.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Policy
EditorsKen Conca, Erika Weinthal
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199335084
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • water allocation
  • unintended allocation
  • water management
  • institutional allocating mechanism
  • water share
  • appropriation of water

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