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Abstract

Like in many fen land regions in East Germany, long-standing intensive arable farming -enabled by reclamation - has caused soil deterioration and high water runoff in the Schraden region. More than ten years of economic and political transformation that followed the breakdown of the socialist regime has worsened the situation and even added new problems. The visible consequences are droughts in the summer, waterlogged plots in the spring, and worn-down water management facilities that operate in an uncoo rdinated or unautho rized way. Given the local public good character of so me features of the fen land, the common-pool character of the intermittently scarce resource water within the ecosystem, and the conflicting interests of regional stakeholders, it is argued that the reallocation of property rights over reclamation systems, together with ineffective coordination mechanisms, have caused the physical and institutional failure of the water management system and thus impeded app ropriate land use. More precisely, the combination of legal insecurities accompanied by enforcement problems, fragmented land ownership structure, and a high number of short-term lease contracts have reduced the incentives for the majority of farmers to maintain the reclamation works. Due to limited statutory rights in conjunction with limited financials, the present water association appears to be an inadequate local coordination mechanism. Furthermore, the complete and timeintensive restructuring process at all levels of water administration has resulted in cumbersome or even nonexistent interrelations between various governmental layers as well as in rare transboundary contacts.

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