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International Journal of the Commons



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Monitoring and enforcement have been recognized as keys for sustainable common pool resource governance. With a couple of notable exceptions, however, scholars have not examined how they are deployed when governments are the primary actors devising such agreements and where multiple public goods are provided for – an important level of governance to understand. We explore the design of monitoring and enforcement safeguards that governments adopt to limit opportunism and support compliance in a complex governing arrangement, the New York City Watersheds Memorandum of Agreement. The agreement defines how New York City and a group of watershed jurisdictions jointly manage a shared natural resource. Furthermore, we test how the design of such safeguards vary depending on the type of public good they cover, illuminating how “federal” safeguards may work at the sub-state level, and, ultimately, the particular form of polycentric governance being used. The results indicate that concerns for water quality as well as potential for opportunistic behavior drive institutional design considerations. Monitoring and sanctioning authority for water quality is dominated by state and federal actors, which hold New York City to account, while watershed jurisdictions are held responsible by regional actors for administration of economic development goods.