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The Politics of Water in Hawaii: An Institutional Appraisal

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The politics of water in Hawaii has its roots in a pattern of land ownership that is unique to the state: oligopoly. Approximately 25% of the land in Hawaii is owned by fewer than 10 large corporations. These big landowners have a vested interest in the control of Hawaii's waters, since they own most of the state's sugar and pineapple plantations, which use about 24% of the fresh water consumed in the state. Our study shows a clear link between Hawaii's oligopolistic landowners and the state's political machinery responsible for deciding crucial issues of water ownership, control and appropriation. This 'alliance of convenience' has resulted in a number of disquieting consequences. This paper examines and appraises these and their impact on Hawaii's water development and suggests future directions.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 1996

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