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Size and the Structure of Authority in Canal Irrigation Systems Author(s): Robert C.

Hunt Source: Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Winter, 1988), pp. 335-355 Published by: University of New Mexico Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3630504 . Accessed: 29/09/2013 21:25
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JOURNAL OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH


(Formerly SouthwesternJournal of Anthropology)

VOLUME 44

NUMBER 4

WINTER

1988

SIZE AND THE STRUCTUREOF AUTHORITY IN CANALIRRIGATION SYSTEMS


C. Hunt Robert MA02254 ofAnthropology, Brandeis Waltham, Department University,
It is widely assumed thatall irrigation musthaveconstituted and that systems authority all largeirrigation Thesmall literature musthavecentralized which systems authority. teststhesebeliefs and theresultsof a systematic is reviewed, comparative studyarepresented.Theconcepts size,"and"irrigation of "irrigation system, system ""irrigation system structure aredefined. Variables which these areconstructed, measure ofauthority" concepts A handful and measurements aredisplayed. froma purposive sample of smallirrigation wasfound.An inspection structures systemswithout authority of the data revealsno size and thestructure in systems between of authority ranging from 700 to relationship an irrigation 458,000 ha. Furthermore, system of 458,000 ha is managed byfarmers. Conclusions: without constituted existand(2) large (1) irrigation authority systems systems do not require central authority. CANAL IRRIGATION are generally believed to require an authority SYSTEMS

andoperation are to be successful,andall largeirstructureif construction to are assumed These authority. rigation systems widely requirecentralized have and been two largely unconfirmed beliefsare superficially plausible widely used by scholarsto interpret data. historic,andethnographic archaeological, is deemednecis rare),authority Whenthese propositions are argued(which actionandto controlcompetition: essary to effect coordinated of irrigation, makesa strongcentral andeven perhaps control installation, on the Betsileo of Madagascar) essential. (Linton 1939:286, power
irrigation.
.

imposedthe necessityfor a closely integrated society, since

andthe watershared canonlybe maintained anelaborate systemof canals in Peru; out by strictcontrol.(Bushnell 1957:56,on the late Formative
emphasis added) The more important of these irrigationsystems must have been constructed and administeredby a body of irrigationofficialsdirected by a
335

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centralized pre-Incagovernment.(Forbes 1955:8, on Peru; emphasis added) in 1957, scholars of Wittfogel's Oriental Withthe publication began Despotism andthe betweencentralauthority to concentrate on the positiverelationship size of the irrigation clearlywas system (in spite of the fact that Wittfogel works, not merelyirrigation systems; see discussingall types of hydraulic Mitchell1973): and activity... does makemanyof the technical Large-scale hydraulic of large claimsfor it. The mobilization whichWittfogel socialdemands of suchworks, andmaintenance of laborfor the construction quantities comof wateron an equitable basisamongcompeting andthe allocation alikerequire the presenceof a superordinate (Wheatmunities, authority. added) emphasis ley 1971:298,on China; for anyMayasystem of watercontrolso No evidencehas yet appeared on the lowland statemanagement. (Bronson 1978:279, largeas to require added) Maya;emphasis These generalbeliefsare in the formof two nomothetic (1) propositions: for allcanalirrigation have and constituted authority management (2) systems alllargecanal These authority. irrigation systemshavecentralized management to irthree which refer entities: the contain empirical propositions concepts and the the size of that structure rigationsystem itself, system, authority whichmanagesthat system. In this paperI subjectthese propositions to confirmation and the associated reducing uncertainty by examining hopefully with them. Insofaras a particular is used to interpret dataor to proposition forotherpropositions, which serve as a foundation thenthe uncertainty pertains to it is as important as its content. A majorstrategy to reduce the uncertainty whichattachesto a general is to makeits conceptsas unambiguous as possible.As they have proposition been used in the literature, allthree of the aboveconceptsare less clearthan they mightbe. No authordefinespreciselywhat is meantby "anirrigation whatsize systemthey size,"andfew haveeven specified system"or by "large are dealing with.No moreprecisearethe conceptsof central strong authority, centralpower, centralized or state management. Measuresof government, or have been unreliable in application these conceptshave also been unclear to particular data. These two sources of uncertainty of inhibit ourjudgment the internal of the propositions andStanley1963). In (see Campbell validity the most generalformof the propositions has been challenged addition, by a
case study, since supported by additionalcases, in which Netting (1974b) proposed that an irrigationsystem can exist and persist without any organized authority whatsoever.

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PREVIOUS STUDIES
to Systematiccomparative analysisis the majorstrategy for attempting To the confirm abouta statistical date a generalization relationship relationship. in irrigation of authority between size and centralization systems has been in fourcomparative examined studies:Millon (1962),Mencher (1966),Kappel of studies containslarge amountsof and Earle Each these (1978). (1974), uncertainty. Millon'ssampleconsistedof seven cases, four of them alreadypublished Pul in Tanganyika; the 12-Go system in Japan; (the Sonjo,a smallchiefdom cases on Bali).The threeadditional andGeertz'searlymaterial Eliyain Ceylon; of the El Shaaccount sources(Fernea's were derivedfromthenunpublished and of a "tribal" banain southernIraq;an account system in the Hadramaut; of Teotihuacan on severalvillagesin the SanJuan Millon's ownmaterial Valley structure for these seven "relMexico).Millonmeasuredsize andauthority bethat "thereis no clearrelationship systems andconcluded ativelysmall" andthe size of the irrigation of authority tweendegreeof centralization system the practice of irrigation or the number of personsit supports.Furthermore, of central hasnot, apparently, (Millon authority" growth brought anysubstantial smallsystems,"these resultschalconfined to "relatively 1962:56).Although between size and authority. lenge the generalbelief aboutthe relationship havebeenaccepted conclusions Millon's by Wolf(1966:26,n. 8), Price(1971), Lees (1973), andMitchell (1973). on nucleation two areasof southIndia,focusing Mencher(1966)compared andland andthe ecologyof waterworks of kingdoms, of villages,centralization nucleated found that Madras. She in and Kerala villages, highly highly transport with were associated and more roads, kingdoms integrated highly developed the andlargerirrigation lowerrainfall the areashaving works,thussupporting belief. general of World CulKappel(1974)selected seventeensocietiesfromthe Outline threevariables: turesandmeasured (2) size (1) size anddensityof population, auof decision-making of irrigation facilities,and (3) degree of centralization do so also and size as that He concluded increase, density population thority. of size and the centralization systems. irrigation political small datawithfourothersingle-village his Hawaiian Earle(1978)compared that He concluded the and specific Sonjo). systems (PulEliya,Ifugao,Moala, thanto the demands rolesseemedrelatedmoreto the socialmatrix managerial of irrigation (Earle1978:135). andKappel in the cases of Millon The resultsof these studiesare equivocal no exhibits Earle. Earle's and Mencher of and weak in the cases sample andvery littlein size. As a consequence, of authority in the structure variation betweenthetwoconcepts.Mencher, the relationship about littlecanbe learned variation in effect, does a concomitant study withinone regionof India.As andTeune(1970) have shown,this research Clignet(1970) and Przeworski

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of all, or even the major,sources of design does not permitidentification variable. in the dependent variance have weakinternal andKappel studiesby Millon The comparative validity. andas population. of size both as acres irrigated Millondefinedhis variable used acres irrigated, Whenhe actually however,he in some cases measured in Baliandthe area of tribal the size of a smallkingdom other phenomena: intothe massiveuncertainty introduces controlin Iraq.This practice political Millon's results have been betweenthe two variables. resultingrelationship by Bennett(1974), who calledattentionto the smallnessof his questioned size rangeof the irrigation systems studied,andby R. sampleandthe limited abouthis measurements. HuntandE. Hunt(1976),who raisedquestions and for size "extentof irrigation" Kappel(1974:162)labels the variable or the system's relativesize as definesit as miles of canal,acres irrigated, noted by ethnographers. However,his results are expressedin household, with the units, therebymaking comparison village,district,andgovernment the whole refers to his for In variable data difficult. addition, authority original his measure of if we not the se. Finally, accept system per society, irrigation in the text does not agree withthe datapresented conclusion size, Kappel's Size"(Kappel andPopulation on figure13.2, "Relationships of Sizeof Irrigation 1974:164). withthe conceptsand In conclusion, seriousproblems havebeen identified of theirmeasuresas used in the comparative studies,andthe internal validity usedhave sincethe samples these studiesis thuscompromised. Furthermore, of these studies no knownrelationship to any universe,the externalvalidity aboutthe littleor no "knowledge" is also extremelylow. As a consequence, of has been size to the of structure authority system relationship irrigation gained. THIS STUDY research Thispaperpresentssomeof the resultsof systematic comparative In the order to evaluate of canal on the authority structure systems.' irrigation irriof are correct,the concepts likelihood that the nomothetic propositions deandsize were narrowly structure, authority gationsystem, administrative and structureand size were constructed; of authority fined;measurements these variables were measured on a smallpurposive sample. Universe and Sample to canal The universeforthis studyis confined systemsin states. irrigation discussionsof irrigation Since Wittfogel's Oriental systems with Despotism, have at least impliedthat the state is involved.It is centralized authority
criticallyimportantthat each case in the sample have the potential to be politically centralized, a criterion which bands and probablychiefdoms do not meet. States have a politicalcenter (by definition),layers of territorialadministration, and peripheral organizations(villages, kin groups, ethnic groups,

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structure corporations), any of whichcouldconceivably supplythe authority for a canalirrigation system. In states, then, a choicemustat least potentially be madeaboutwhichlevel of authority willruna canalsystem. structure For ease of access to data,the universefor the presentstudymustfurther be confinedto modern nationstates. Although the worldnow containswell over a hundred thousand canalirrigation systems,2few havebeen described. The majority of the available studieshave appeared since 1970anddealwith conditions. Data from historical of irrigation contemporary investigations systems wouldbe a valuable addition to this study, but since such researchis very costlyandlengthy,few havebeen done(Glick's [1970] studyof Valencia is the best example;the few others includeKelly[1982], Stone [1984], and Ludden[1985]). Unit-The Irrigation Sampling System A persistentproblem in nomothetic studiesis to finda stableunitof analysis. In a recent paper Kelly pointedout that "the irrigation system"seems to function as the masteranalytic He concept,but it is usuallyleft undefined. of it in the literature: "Anirrigation quotes one of the few definitions system is anarrangement wateris conveyed froma sourceto anareaneeding by which water to facilitate of desiredcrops"(Kelly1983:881,quoted the production fromvan der Mere 1968:720).Vander Mere'sdescription states thingsthat are true of irrigation abouttheirdiscreteness systems, but it tells us nothing and is thereforeof no use in deciding where the boundaries between such systems are. andmultivocality in the unitof analysiscontribute so muchunAmbiguity to irrigation weakened. certainty systemstudiesthattheirresultsareseriously Oneexamplemakesthis clear.Millon's the comparative study(1962)included El Shabana, a tribalgroupin southernIraqstudiedby Fernea(subsequently in 1970).Millon measured the irrigation published system size by the number of hectaresthe tribeoccupied. However,Iraqi irrigation engineers,appointed andhiredby the nation, hadsystem-wide administrative andvarious authority, unitsof the tribereceivedwaterfromthe national canalsthey administered. The territorycoveredby the irrigation was thus system andits bureaucracy members of the tribe. This sitvastly greaterthanthe territory by occupied in nomothetic uationis intolerable is studies,forno cross-systemcomparison if two or more of are In units used. nomothetic studies each possible analysis variable mustbe measured on identically defined must systems. Wetherefore have a way of identifying systems. particular irrigation Since any large-scalecomparative study is forced to rely on the extant unitused must be identifiable in secondary sources. literature,the sampling
Ideally, the unit should be defined so that it is also applicableto archaeological and historicalsources. The followingdefinitionis an attempt to specify how to find the boundaries of particularirrigationsystems: a canal irrigationsystem is composed of (1) a facility (gate, offtake) which takes water from a natural channel and moves it away from its naturaldownhillcourse and (2) the sub-

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on sequentcontrolworks(canals,gates, fields)thatguidethe waterflowing the surface to the agricultural untilthatwatereithersoaksintothe earth plants or flowson the surfaceout of the controlworks.3 The Variable ofAdministrative Authority All the theoriesaboutcentralization of control,or lackof it, concernthe of power.Inthe longrunwe would liketo haveanswersto several organization fundamental about Whohaspower questions powerin the contextof irrigation: over water,andhow andwhy do they have thatpower?Do those who have else? Do those who have other powerover waterhave powerover anything sources of power have power over water decisions? And, finally,is there between over water and over else? Power directionality power power anything has been notoriously difficult to define,observe,andmeasure,especially from literature. The few extended accounts of conflict in the secondary irrigation literature seem clearly to reflectpowerdifferences to bearonirrigation brought decisions(Gallin these cases 1966;vander Mere 1971;E. Hunt1972).While have stronginternal no exists for fromthem validity, justification generalizing to a wholevillage,to a system as a whole,or over any substantial time span their external is (i.e., validity low). Since poweris problematic to measureandits measurement is all but imfrom possible existing sources, the emphasisin this paperwill be on the structureof authority in the administration of irrigation systems. A nearly universal contextof power,especially in states, authority may be definedas the legitimate is rarelyirrelevant to powerand rightto wieldpower.Authority at times probably can be measuredrelatively mapsit ratherwell. Authority withpower)bothin the fieldandin the secondary literature. easily(compared The phrase"centralized indiscussions of canal authority" appears repeatedly andyet it is rarelydefined In a recent irrigation, clearlyor used consistently. articleKelly(1983)has begunthe task of segmenting this muddled areainto He notes that two majorconceptshave been involved separatedimensions. in previousdiscussions of centralized (1) the internal authority: configuration of authority rolesof a systemand(2) the external of these among relationship roles to roles in othersocialsystems, especially the political irrigation system of the state. Kelly (1983:883)suggests the terms "centralization/decentralization" to designatethe dimension of internal to indicate"the organization, roles are hierarchically andauthority in degree to whichirrigation configured task performance is concentrated." He suggests"articulation/autonirrigation the degree to whichthe irrigation is linkedto, omy"to indicate organization or is independent of the conceptof centralized of, the state. Kelly'sseparation into these two dimensions is potentially authority very useful.But since the term "centralized" I suggest "concentrated / may refer to bothdimensions,
dispersed"for the end pointsof the dimensionof internalcoherence of authority. A system without constituted authoritywould have a maximumof dispersed, as opposed to concentrated, authority and might be labeled "acephalous." A The system with a constituted authority system might be labeled "unified."

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nomothetic we are investigating states, in effect, that all canal proposition are unified. irrigation systems The meaning of centralized most prominent in the literature conauthority kind the of between the roles of an cerns linkage authority irrigation system and externalentities, usuallythe state.4This articulation is at the core of that Millonused in his Wittfogel's theory and is the conceptof centralized We note, however,thatallcanalirrigation comparative study. should systems in modernstates are articulated in some way withthe state. Even the most often have some sort of legalpermission communities independent irrigation to organize andare frequently This dimension juralpersons(R. Hunt1987).5 is the focusforthispaper.Onewayto state (Kelly's"articulated/autonomous") the questionis whetherauthority over the decisionsandactivitieswithinthe irrigation system is locatedwithinthe irrigation system or externalto it. An administrative workto be done andindividuals structure must contain to do the work.Inthe administration of canal severaltasksandroles irrigation, are involved. Severaluniversally found in canal worktaskshavebeenidentified construction of the physical irrigation systems, including system, captureof waterfromthe environment, of wateronce captured, allocation maintenance of the physical andaccounting. andritual resolution, system, conflict Drainage for structureis responsible tasks are also sometimesfound.If an authority them. Systems roles must exist to perform these tasks, then administrative withconstituted are headedby a chiefexecutiveofficer,6 definedas authority for allocation at the facilitywhere the system takes that officerresponsible staffmay also be responsible for alwater fromnature.Various subordinate be location.Some or all of the other tasks of the irrigation system may performedby this staff. The CEOusuallymust reportto a personor persons of Directors, of Irrigation, Board someroleor set of roles (Minister occupying role of For some tasks (e.g., All contain the farmer. etc.).7 systems irrigation numbers of workers are These andconstruction), maintenance large required. of the be farmers workersmaybe full-time employees system, they may part is to do this work, or they may be laborershired of whose responsibility for the task at hand. temporarily All formally A featureof authority systems is a charterfor that authority. of charter have some sort administrative constituted canalirrigation systems The variable charter of has for their authority run the to authority system. in canal national content three valueswith empirical systems: govirrigation These termsreferto the source andprivate." ernment,irrigation community, over alloof legitimacy for the chiefexecutiveofficer'sexercise of authority cationat the headgate. or Witha national charter,the centerof the polity(a ministry government
an officialconnected directly to the head of state) has direct responsibilityfor operating the irrigationsystem, appoints the CEO, and formulates the rules for operating the system. In modern times the individualswho occupy the position of CEO in systems with a nationalgovernment charter usually have formaleducationin civil or agricultural engineering, are paida salaryin money,

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andoftenappear in the centralgovernment in budget.They tendto be urban in The and and often residence as well. standards and life-style aspirations sanctions for theirperformance are set by the ministry overseeingirrigation Hunt (R. n.d.b). charterare often calledindigenous, Systems with an irrigation community or traditional, community-based 1963;Coward 1976, 1979, 1980; (Beardsley MaassandAnderson 1978). In these cases a corporate groupof water-rights holders(the irrigation elects or appoints the CEO,whohas direct community) for the operation of the headgate. Thisindividual has responsibility frequently no formal education in engineering andis usually a memberof the corporate groupand a directuser of the water himself.He may receive no directrecompenseat all. The less monetizedthe system, the more likelythat his labor,extrawater recompensewillbe in the formof relieffrommaintenance or land,or produce.Onlyvery recentlyhas his recompense been in the form of money.Suchindividuals areresidents of villages or rural towns,have usually a rural urban The standards and life-style,andhavefew significant aspirations. sanctions for executing the dutiesof the officeare determined andcarried out At leasttwo cases onrecord involve whatmight locally by the corporate group. be calledconsortia of irrigation communities: Valencia in Spainandthe King's River WaterAssociation in Fresno, California. In both cases a numberof communities are locatedon a riverandcombine theireffortsto deal irrigation withvarious are not strictlyirrigation jointmatters.Whilesuchconsortia systems as definedabove,theircharter of authority proceedsfromfarmers,and in this sense they are likeirrigation communities (R. Huntn.d.b). with charters run are whoin effect Irrigation systems private by individuals charterthemselves.This commonly occurswhenan entrepreneur fundsthe of the Most of the cases known to me involve building system. relatively highly capitalized agricultural enterprisesin LatinAmerica (particularly sugarmills) andKing1970;Ronfeldt come (see Barkin 1973).Suchindividual entrepreneurs froma widevarietyof backgrounds; can be merchants, they locally generated In almostevery case, the bosses), or foreigncapitalists. caciques(political to the entrepreneur, ratherthanto the irrigation system is seen as belonging nationor a groupof farmers(R. Huntn.d.b). variation is exhibited in the Amongthese types of charters,considerable number of tasks the CEOis responsible for andin how fardownthe system that responsibility extends. Irrigation communities are the most denselyorfrom this for allocation is also ganized pointof view: the officeresponsible for maintenance, for accounting, and for the early (andin some responsible cases nearlyallof the) stages of conflict resolution (see R. Hunt1978,n.d.b). These responsibilities extenddownto the farmer level. Systemswithnational charters arefarmorevariable. Sometakeresponsibility foreverygovernment
thing right down to the farmgate (the Gezirascheme in the Sudanis the prime example of this [Dishoni 1966; Farbrother 1973]). Others will only take responsibilityfor allocationand maintenanceat the main-canallevel, leaving all

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othertasksandallocation andmaintenance atlowerlevelsto otherorganizations or to no organization at all (see R. Huntn.d.a for an extendeddiscussion). The question of whetheranirrigation can systemhasa constituted authority be answered the discussed above.A systemwithout anauthority using concepts (anauthority system has no CEO.Systemscanbe unified systemwitha CEO is present)or acephalous (no authority system andno CEO). The charter is the variable used for measuring administrative of authority in thispaper.Charter structure is the sourceof authority of the chief authority for carrying out allocation executive officer,who is responsible decisionsat the head-facility. The scale of thisvariable is nominal. Its valuesas isolatedso far are (1) national and (3) private. government,(2) irrigation community, charterof authority are po(or provincial) Irrigation systems with a national com(i.e., state-controlled). liticallycentralized Systems with an irrigation charter not state-controlled; charter or witha private areclearly however munity withoutsideinstitutions. they maybe articulated TheVariable of Size measuresof the size of anirrigation Three different systemhavebeen used in the literature. The population withinthe boundaries of a system contained has been used by Millon (1962)andEarle(1978).The lengthof the maincanal or the totallengthof the canalshavebeenproposed (1974).Finally, by Kappel the overallextent (area)of the system has also been used by Millon(1962) such as technological distinctions and Earle (1978). In addition, complexity has appealed havebeen attractive to some, whileorganizational to complexity The literature is others(see Netting1974a; 1986). 1974; silent, Uphoff Spooner however,on where andhow one is to measurethese features. Use of the population of a canalirrigation system as a measureof its size in conceptualizing the difficulties is an attractive for but reasons, concept many it are very great and have not been overcome.A primary and measuring is deciding who is to be counted.If one focuseson the farmers,then problem the farmoperators one has to decide whetherone means the landowners, the farm workers one and the and/or are often not (whomaybe same), (they An from added or different the previouscategories). complipartially totally some canalirrigation cationis that withintheir boundaries systems contain ratherlargetowns(andperhaps cities), few of whoseresidentsare connected in canals the water the to (e.g., Valencia; Fresno,California). irrigation directly in termsof hydrological never drawn featuresand Censustractsare virtually andnonirrigators. The size between irrigators thereforedo not differentiate thus of an irrigation withinthe boundaries of the population system maycorthe price of land, and relate with many other factors, such as technology, rather thanwiththe size of the irrigation sourcesof employment, systemitself. All of these difficulties mightbe resolved,given the time andresources.At of an irrigation the present,however,the population system is neithera clear literature. fromthe secondary conceptnor one thatcanbe measured

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The lengthof the maincanal andthe totallengthof the canalsof the system wouldbe very instructive measuresto have.At the very least, a ratioof the aboutthe likely extent of the system to lengthof canalwouldtell something It is not clearto me thatthe lengthof the canalsystem maintenance burden.9 in administrative it might.But willcorrelatewithvariation structure, although the lengthsof canalsystems are only very rarelyreportedin the secondary andtherefore cannot the concept,however be converted literature, interesting, into a usefulvariable at this time. Overall of the size of a canalirrigation extent has been the usualmeaning no one has definedit, most authorsapparently meanthe system. Although in acres or hectares.An areaof the fieldsirrigated by the system, measured of this conceptis that manyauthors(or government documents) advantage a figureon the extent of a system. Extentis thus botha usefuland publish feasiblemeasure,although it is not the onlyusefulone imaginable. Difficulties neverthelessexist with published figuresof the extent of a given system. Those responsible for a system maybe motivated to inflate its extent, particularlyif it is a national system. Oftena system is designedto government reach given size, and although it never reachesthat size, the designedsize continuesto be the official size of that system. In some systems the amount of landthatis irrigated in any givenyearis a function of the amount of water in storage. This is true of the 53-hectaresystem in Pul Eliya(Leach1961) and of a 100,000-hectare Mexico (Hunt1982 field system in northwestern of hectares notes). Whatthenis the extentof the system-the largestnumber thathaveever beenirrigated in thatsystem, the averagenumber of hectares, the designednumber of hectares,or the number of hectaresunderirrigation thisseason?To select the average number as representing the administratively relevantnumber is tempting, andI wouldputleast emphasis on the designed For in inflated. size, for this is occasionally wildly working the secondary noonerelatesthe source is moot,forvirtually literature, however,the question of the number much less how is that number defined. used, Even more usefulthanthe abovefiguresfor measuring the size of an irriwould be a the number of ratio of canal gationsystem gates to the extent of the whole system. This wouldbe a tellingfigure,for it wouldidentifythe of decision number andthe pointsin the system (eachgate mustbe operated; moregate operations, the moredecisions and could well as serve taken) very an indexof administrative such data are available. density.However, rarely The definition of the size of an irrigation system must be linkedto the definition of the system itself. If we are attempting to correlate two or more those variables must be measured on the same basic variables, unit, sampling in this case an irrigation in termsof a headsystem. The system was defined facilityand the controlstructuresleadingthe water away fromthe natural was measured drainage system. The administrative authority by the type of
charter of authorityresponsible for that facility.The size of the system, in turn, is the extent (measured in hectares) of the fields which are irrigatedfrom that to know how to relate extent head-facility.It has a ratio scale. It is very difficult

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to the casualuses of terms suchas "large," and"huge" thatare "extensive," the oftenfound inthe literature. Oneimportant for future be to calibrate will job such intuitive aboutsize to a consciousmeasureof size such as judgments extent. RESULTS withNo Constituted Systems Authority The vast majority of canalirrigation do systems reportedin the literature havea constituted structure. Mexico contains of the order authority something of fifteenthousand namedirrigation systems, each of whichhas a constituted n.d.a). Ofthe irrigation forthe United (see R. Hunt authority systemsreported all have constituted and the same holds(so far)forJapan, States, authority, andIndonesia. Thetotalrecorded number of systemswithno constituted India, is no morethanfourteen.So to date the evidenceindicates thatthe authority vast majority of systems have formal How far backin authority organization. time this condition can be extendedis unknown. Netting (1974b, personal communication 1983)has arguedthat a smallsystem in the Swiss Alpsdoes not now, and has not for at least eight hundred years, had any constituted to runit. Earle(1978)has presented datafromcontemporary Hawaii authority thatcanbe interpreted in the sameway,andde los Reyes (1980a,1980b)has of ten small which presentedbriefaccounts irrigation systemsinthe Philippines lack constituted These systems are all smallin size (less than20 authority. of farmers(fewerthanthirtyfarmers). ha) andin number Structure of Size and Type ofAuthority Relationship Table1 shows the distribution of the variable of chartertype withrespect to the variable of size. Noteworthy are the smallestsystem with a national and the largestconsortium of charter,at 700 ha (in Indonesia), government at 458,000ha (inthe UnitedStates). Inbetweenthese communities, irrigation two extremes are foundbotha number of irrigation chartersand community a number of national charters. government The interpretation of charter of authority should be straightforward. A system witha national is charter centralized government (state-controlled), surely whereasan irrigation chartermeans that the system is not cencommunity tralized of size, however,is moredifficult. No bythestate.The interpretation inthe literature commentator hasso farsaidwhatsize systemwould be "large" or "small." To calibrate this variable with previousstatementsis therefore It does seem certain that impossible. any system of 458,000 ha wouldbe considered is thatmostcommentators would largeby everybody. Mysuspicion of also regarda system 10,000ha as large.
The main conclusion to be drawn from Table 1 is that, within a very broad range of sizes (700 ha to 458,000 ha), size alone does not determine which type of charteris necessary to operate a canalirrigation system. Both irrigation community(local control) and nationalgovernment (external control) charters

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TABLE1 Size and Charter Nameof System SanJuan Tayuban Danum Zanjera VicenteGuerrero 12-Go Moncada Morelia #2 New CacheLa Poudre AngatRiver RioMayo Fresno Chia-nan Barrage Hindiyah King'sRiver GeziraScheme Size (in hectares) 600 700 1,500 1,575 5,500 7,000 8,000 15,400 26,890 95,973 97,000 150,000 209,000 458,000 730,300 Typeof Charter community irrigation national government community irrigation community irrigation irrigation community community irrigation national government community irrigation national government national government community irrigation community irrigation national government community irrigation national government

Country Mexico Java Philippines Mexico Japan Spain Mexico U.S.A. Philippines Mexico U.S.A. Taiwan Iraq U.S.A. Sudan

arelisted intheAppendix. forthesedata Note:Sources

can and do operate these systems. In other words, politicalcentralization (i.e., state control) of canal irrigationis not necessary between 700 and 458,000 hectares. Size alone is not determiningwhat form of control the system has (within this range of sizes). The internalvalidityof these findingsis relatively high. The definitionsof a system and of the two variablesmeasured are fairlyclear and easily measured from the secondary literature. If these measures are reliable and valid, the community systems whichhave either irrigation range of sizes of canalirrigation or nationalgovernment charters can only increase."' There are limitations on the external validity of the findings due to the definitionof the universe used for the study and to the design of the study (see Campbelland Stanley 1963; R. Hunt 1979). The samplingstrategy was such that the relationshipof this sample distributionto the total universe of irrigationsystems is unknown.The sample used in this study was purposive, and the purposes were (1) to have data that are analyzablefrom secondary literature and (2) to maximizethe range of values for each variable. It is in no sense a random sample of anythingand therefore cannot be taken as representative of the distributionof these variables in any universe. Because the universe was limited to modern nation states, it is not known to what extent the results of this study can be extended to other kinds of states, to states in other time periods, and to nonstate societies.

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DISCUSSION It is widelyheldthatallcanal and,as we irrigation systems mustbe unified, haveseen, thisis notstrictly true.Butthe probability thatanyirrigation system is very highindeed.If the size of an archaeover, say, 100 ha willbe unified or ethnographically described canalirrigation ologically systemis greaterthan 100 ha, it wouldseem safe to inferthatit has or hada unified administrative structure.For any size under50 ha, this wouldappear to be probauthority lematic. The existenceof acephalous the irrigation systems challenges organization in sharing waterandperforming inherent the work theorythat the problems a constituted demand The question withrespect to to be answered authority. these smallacephalous systems, then, is how they deal with the tasks that mustbe performed. Allocation mustbe accomplished, maintenance performed, resolved.The most difficult done, andconflict accounting problems they face wouldprobably be sharingwater in times of scarcityand dealingwith free riders. If in fact these problems do not exist, then the questionto answeris leadsone to expecttheiruniversal whytheyareabsent,whenmuch experience on one of these systemsshould occurrence. fieldwork be a veryhigh Targeted for the socialanthropology of canalirrigation. priority andoperation of largehydraulic Wittfogel arguedthatboththe construction in this has called demand what been centralized (i.e., politically systems paper 1 Table indicates that canal state-controlled) management. clearly very large If largesystems operated by the farmers. irrigation systems canbe effectively then do not need or demand its existence is the result centralization, political of a choice,not a generalneed. Howthenmightwe proceedto try explaining, in a generalway, the distribution of state-controlled irandfarmer-managed rigation systems? One of the first tasks is to establishwhatis meantby "large." Up to this has free of numbers. the discussion been almost One entirely point consequence of the studyreportedhere is the realization thatdefining andestablishing the size of a system is criticalfor a discussionof the relationship of size and it seems to me thatanything than3,000-4,000 organization. Intuitively, larger ha shouldbe calledlargefromthe pointof view of operations. At this size and certainto be involved in using above, more thanone settlementis virtually of anirrigation caneasilybe the unitof operation the system.A village system, andsystemsof management inexistence. forcomplex arealready relationships Whena system is composedof two or more villages,then a different(and hasto exist, andwithit comeproblems probably special-purpose) organization andrevenue(R. Hunt1978, 1987). of discipline withrespectto rulefollowing A potentially to exploreis whetherthe kindof state lineof inquiry promising
has an effect on the size of irrigationsystems and their type of management. It is tempting to say thatJapanand the United States, for example, differfrom Mexico and India. But the concepts we use to capture those differences are

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andnot entirelyclear.Whilecolonialism vitallyimportant by industrial powers it willclearlynot account to do withthis situation, mightwell have something for China.Indiahas builtseveralstate-controlled irrigation systems since inandMexicoreceivedpolitical in 1821, longbefore dependence, independence its large modernsystems were even thoughtof (see Kroeber1983). The of state"hasbeen withus fora longtime,andwe writeabout conceptof "kind states, etc. But as yet states, states, mercantile agrarian empires,industrial I see no evidencethatthe dimension or dimensions whichcapturethese difmuchless operationalized. ferenceshavebeen clearlyformulated, Anyfuture with to of variation in a variable some the attempt explain irrigation systems of "typeof nation work mustbe preceded the of that state" by creating variable. centralized Some factorsmightfavorthe presenceof politically (i.e., stateto a state The which controlled) systems. permitsstronglegitimate degree localorganizations communities of anysize involve mightbe a factor.Irrigation morethana handful of villages,imposediscipline on theirmembers,andhave comrevenue-raising power.Somestates mightviewsuchentitiesas potential for and them over thus discourage control petitors power by taking irrigation at the state level. Some other factorsmightincludestate controlover agricultural of the dynamics of ruralpolitics(see R. and knowledge production Hunt1988). Somestates Otherfactors orencourage communities. permit might irrigation over canal mighthave suchvariedsourcesof revenueandpowerthatcontrol of state power. Or irrigation systems is not necessaryfor the maintenance of the foodsupply the uncertainty agricultural development mayhavereduced to suchanextentthatthe statehasless needto manage production. agricultural The presenceof suchfactorsreducesthe importance of state controlof canal irrigation. Communication affectsthe speedwithwhichmessagesandpertechnology sonnelcanbe movedaround ofthe system theirrigation system.Theoperations affectedby changesin this technology. Conmightthereforebe profoundly versely, they maynot be affected,at least fromthe pointof view of the social of control.The 12-Go system has been in operation, as an irriorganization since at least A.D.1600 (Beardsley, Hall,andWard 1959), gationcommunity, andthe Valencian backto A.D. 1200 systems havehadthe sameorganization at least (Glick haschanged 1970;Butzeret al. 1985).Inbothplacestechnology a greatdealover thistimeperiod,as indeedhas the political environment; yet the irrigation in has remained the dominant institution community irrigation bothsystems. It is not clearto me at thispointthatchangesin communication in the formof charter makeany substantial difference technology necessarily thatis necessaryfor operating these several-thousand-hectare canalirrigation systems.
Some of the systems in Table 1 have water storage facilities under their control, and some do not. The effect of storage on administrative organization in this sample is not clear, but storage is a very old phenomenon (storage works existed in medieval Ceylon and earlier still in South India [Murphey 1957; Leach 1959; Ludden1985]). Storage wouldreduce variancein the amount

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of wateravailable andwould extendwaterusageinseasonal terms.Butstorage also encourages of the areairrigated, whichwouldin turnincrease expansion the pressureof scarcity,therebyincreasing the administrative load.At this is it not clear has visible that effects the structure point storage upon authority of canalirrigation. The conceptof political usedin thispaperis of courselimited. centralization It demands a state, perhaps a "modern" state. Andit willnot easilyallowfor the accretion of independence local on the fringesof fading states. by magnates Even in modernstates ambiguous willarise, wheremanagers of a situations state enterprisealso have very stronglocalloyalties.But even withall these centralization problems,it seems to me that the conceptof political operaclose tionalized here is close to Wittfogel's is to the ideas that are concept, presented by many authors,and so far seems to work well in measuring cases. particular in thispaper The resultsof the studyreported are strongly counterintuitive. to No canalirrigation to be able exist without constituted ausystem ought system oughtto be ableto thority.Yet they do. Andno largecanalirrigation if managed function We only by farmers.Yet they do, andvery successfully. in these withthe assignment of confidence to ourintuitions shouldbe cautious matters. CONCLUSIONS variables ofirrigation Thispaper hasrefined the concept system,constructed structure andsize of irrigation for measuring the administrative sysauthority A major on a smallpurposive these variables tems, andmeasured goal sample. of the nomothetic of this exercise was to reducethe uncertainty propositions in canalirrigation. of size andauthority structure the relationship concerning It has been arguedhere that (1) very smallcanalirrigation systems canbe (2) canalirrigation authority; systems of considoperatedwithno constituted comerable size (458,000 ha) can be, and are, operatedby localirrigation munities;and (3) canalirrigation systems of smallsize (700 ha) can be, and of these resultsis rather Theinternal validity are, runby national governments. withprevious when of these The studies, results, compared uncertainty high. is more problematic. These reduced.Their externalvalidity is substantially beaboutthe relationship the standard results clearlychallenge propositions of authority. andthe structure tween canalirrigation Appendix Sources for Measurements
andsourcesused Listedbeloware the namesof the systems,datesof observations, givenon Table1. for the measuresof size andtype of charter SanJuan,Mexico;1963-64 author's fieldnotes Size: fieldnotes Charter: author's E. HuntandR. Hunt1974;R. HuntandE. Hunt1976

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Java;1983 Tayuban, Size: Duewel1983:19 Charter: Duewel1983:19,n. 47 1970s Danum, Zanjera Philippines; Size: Coward 1979:29 Charter: Coward 1979:31,32 VicenteGuerrero, de Riego,Durango); Mexico(Unidad 1982 Size: Bank author's fieldnotes, World Bank Charter: author's fieldnotes, World Moncada, Valencia, Spain;1968 Size: MaassandAnderson 1978:20 Charter: MaassandAnderson 1978:22-23 Morelia de Riego#020); 1982 #2, Mexico(Distrito Size: DGDUR1982, #020:28 Charter: author's fieldnotes, World Bank 1950-54 12-Go, Japan; Size: 1959:133 Hall,andWard Beardsley, Charter: Beardsley, Hall,andWard 1959:135,277-79 New CacheLa PoudreIrrigation Colorado, U.S.A.; 1969 Company, Size: MaassandAnderson 1978:298,table7.6 Charter: MaassandAnderson 1978:289,313 1963-64 AngatRiverIrrigation System, Luzon,Philippines; Size: Takahashi 1970:49 Charter: Takahashi 1970:49,51, 120 RioMayo,Sinaloa, Mexico(Distrito de Riego#038); 1982 Size: DGDUR1982, #038:5 Charter: author's fieldnotes, World Bank FresnoIrrigation District,California, U.S.A.; 1969 Size: MaassandAnderson 1978:175 Charter: MaassandAnderson 1978:175,179-82 Chia-nan 1968-69 Taiwan; Association, Irrigation Size: Pasternak 1972:39 Charter: Pasternak 1972:27n. 8, 41 SouthIraq;1956-58 Canal, Hindiyah Barrage Size: Fernea1970:163 Charter: Fernea1970:122-23 Association, California, U.S.A.; 1969 King'sRiverWater Size: MaassandAnderson 1978:147 Charter: MaassandAnderson 1978:255-56 author's fieldnotes 1987 GeziraScheme,Sudan; 1963-64 Size: Dishoni1966:90 Charter: Dishoni1966:90

NOTES
1. Severalinstitutions have provided for variouspartsof this study.The support American Council of Learned Societiesawarded me a Fellowship in 1975-76, andtwo

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fromBrandeis have been particularly sabbaticals I am grateful to Arjun Appahelpful. Robert andsubstantive durai,Sandra Barnes,andespecially help. Nettingfor editorial IreneWinter has as usualbeen of greatassistance. 2. This number of systems is an educated to contain guess. Mexicois now known aboutfifteenthousand nameddiscreteirrigation about5.0 x 106 systems, irrigating ha (DGDUR havea largenumber of irrigation 1982).Manynations systems, including the Philippines, Indonesia, China, India, Russia,Spain,France,Italy,the United Japan, andPeru. Someof these nations havelargesystems, butallhavea States, Columbia, two thousand large numberof smallsystems. If each of these nationshas around thena figureof a hundred thousand systems, whichseems conservative, systems for the worldas whole seems reasonable. The number of irrigated hectaresin the conworldis knownwithconsiderably less uncertainty thanthe number of irritemporary 1965). gationsystems (Highsmith 3. Thereare somepotential withthisdefinition. Somesystemshavemore problems than one headgate,such as the 12-Go system in Japan(Beardsley, Hall,andWard affectsthe definition is notknown. Another 1959).Howthis situation potential problem is that irrigation systems as here definedshouldbe clearlyisolatedfromeach other. landareserviced However,inmanypartsof the world,largeareasof irrigated by many coast of Valencia, for example,has 120 continuous irrigation systems. The irrigated of irrigation, kilometers withmany small named theterritory. irrigation systemscovering A questionof interestis whetherwhathappens at the boundaries of these systems the definition of a system presentedhere. challenges 4. Oneof the meanings of centralized has been whetheror not an adminauthority istrativestructure exists. This is betterconceptualized as the presenceor absenceof constituted As pointed outabove,another of the meanings is thatthe internal authority. administrative is dense, or highly structure etc. (Kelly'sdimension of cenorganized, This latterdimension has not been systematically studied. tralization). 5. In the articlepublished with Eva Huntin 1976, I arguedthat SanJuanandPul Eliyahad centralized irrigation systems because the localelites were in controlof andwere closelyconnected to the state. I now believethatto be an error. irrigation 6. This namefor the principal role is not a very goodone, but nonebetterhas yet been devised.The nameI havechosenconveys(1) thatthe officeis concerned with the executionof tasks, (2) thatit is the highestexecutiveoffice,and(3) thatit is an office. 7. Policyis alwaysassociatedwith unifiedirrigation systems. The policy-making Thisbodymayor maynot delegate bodyis oftenthe sourceof the CEO'sauthority. some or allof the decisions to be madeto some smaller subsetof people.Manyof the smaller"indigenous" whichis usually systems makedecisionsbased on "tradition," some policydecisionmadein the past andawarded status. Little nearlyunchangeable has been published aboutthese policy-making bodiesor abouthowpolicyis made(An where muchattention has been paidto the WaterCourt[see exceptionis Valencia, FairenGuillen is concerned withcarrying out policy,not 1975]).Mostof the literature withhow it is made. 8. Another valueforthisvariable is provincial InIndia, charter. forexample, possible the charterfor the administrative over manycanalsystems is vested in the authority not in the national These are not (calledstate) governments, provincial government. thestate, buttheyhavemanystatelike functions. Ifthe question is whether the farmers or an externalpolitical charter the system, thenclearlythe Indian authority provinces

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(states) do so andnot the users of the system. It mightbe arguedthat the central how via the constitution. to the provinces Exactly government delegatesthe authority is not yet settledin my mind. shouldbe measured this situation of course,anda major burden maintenance 9. It would be betterto measure directly, of maintenance work withstudiesof canal systemsis thatthe amount irrigation problem is rarelystated. andperformed required size for systems with national 10. I wouldexpect that the minimal government charterswoulddecrease. I do not expect to findsubstantially largersystems with charters. irrigation community

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