Packaging policies to reform the water sector: The case of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act

Itay Fischhendler*, David Zilberman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Existing water policies often deviate from measures suggested by economic and environmental analysis. This is particularly true in the case of drought response policies, where effective policies are rarely adopted. This study focuses on how to enhance the political feasibility of options rather than identifying the optimal water policies. It argues that a legislative policy package may be a mechanism both to unite divergent interest groups into a coalition with common policy agendas and also to fragment or realign existing and traditional alliances. This majority building approach may have a greater chance of obtaining the required political support to advance water reforms. The negotiation over the Central Valley Project Improvement Act in California is used as an example. The case study illustrates how the policy packaging strategy split the traditional power alliance between the agricultural sector and the urban sector in California and between the agricultural sector in California and their allies in other U.S. western states. At the same time, policy packaging has created new regional and sectoral advocacy coalitions in support of water reform. As a result, the Bureau of Reclamation changed its policies in the Central Valley in California relating to the establishment of water markets, water pricing, and wildlife restoration fund and allocating water for the environment.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005


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