Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science


Environmental Science

First Committee Member

Timothy Farnham, Chair

Number of Pages



One of the most significant problems impacting the western United States today is the lack of naturally occurring water resources, especially during this period of drought and explosive population growth. This has led to intense competition over water use and ownership in the arid and semi-arid regions of the United States. During this period of water resource scarcity, it is extremely important to determine the ownership of water rights in order to implement optimal management systems. Most western states use a system of "general stream adjudications" to make water rights ownership determinations.

General stream adjudications are legal proceedings used to determine ownership and characteristics of legal water rights when there are numerous claimants to a common water source. However, a significant number of adjudications have not proceeded to conclusion in a reasonable period of time and at a reasonable cost, but have instead lasted for decades, with significant uncertainty during those years. In order not to impede economic development and ensure sufficient water availability to meet the increasing demands, water rights ownership must be determined swiftly, effectively and fairly.

This dissertation examines the institutional arrangements and significant characteristics of two basin wide "general stream" adjudications using the structure of analysis set forth in the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework. The specific research query that guides this dissertation is, "How do different institutional arrangements impact the determination of water rights?" To answer this question, the dissertation identifies and analyzes the institutional arrangements that control the water adjudication systems of California and Nevada and the impact of these institutional arrangements on the water rights determinations. The research aids in illustrating the relationship between institutional arrangements and the actual process of general stream adjudications. It is expected that by developing a better understanding of the impacts of institutional arrangements on water rights determinations, the most effective systems will ultimately be identified and implemented in order to advance the goals of better water management through adjudications: to provide security, advance certainty and improve clarity in water rights ownership, leading to economic stability, and enhanced availability and sustainability of western water resources.


Sustainability; Water resources development--Economic aspects; Water rights; Water security


Environmental Health and Protection | Water Resource Management

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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