This paper explores the long-term development of irrigation system management, and looks at the influence of legislation, irrigation system size, scalar stress and polarized land tenure in the existence and success of self-management. The case studies are drawn from regions of the former Spanish Empire. Hispanic America, between the 16th and early 19th centuries, as part of the Spanish Empire, had a common legal framework; however, in the 19th and early 20th centuries (after the break up of the Spanish Empire), new and diverse country-based legislation developed and, in some cases, this new legislation favoured self-management.

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