Managing Water as an Economic Resource

Managing Water as an Economic Resource

Managing Water as an Economic Resource

Managing Water as an Economic Resource


Water, already a scarce resource, is treated as though it were plentiful and free. The task of supplying enough water of the required quality to growing populations is straining authorities and governments to the limit as the economic and environmental costs of new supply sources escalate and wasteful supply, delivery and consumption systems persist. Managing Water as an Economic Resource argues that the root of the crisis is the failure of suppliers and consumers to treat water as a scarce commodity with an economic value. James Winpenny evaluates policies for the improved management of existing demand and draws on case studies from different countries. He discusses how policies could be implemented to treat water as an economic good conferring major economic, financial and environmental benefits.


…in a barren and dry land where no water is.

(Psalms, l:xiii)

It was argued in Chapter 1 that the failure to treat water like other economic commodities lies at the heart of the problems noted. Because water is regarded as a special case, its planning has usually amounted to a search for the cheapest options of providing for projected requirements. This chapter reviews conventional planning and investment approaches, before introducing the philosophy of demand management, which underlies the remainder of the book.

The inhabitants of arid and semi-arid regions have always been aware of the value of scarce water. Laws and institutions have evolved to deal with its allocation, which have been more or less effective, though not necessarily efficient or equitable. Even in such regions, however, the scarce assimilative capacity of water has rarely been recognised, and consequently pollution is a growing problem almost everywhere.

For the larger number of people living in humid regions the realisation that water is not an unlimited resource, and that its receptor capacity is also becoming strained, has been very late to dawn. Laws, institutions and policies are confronted with a lot of necessary adjustment. Faced with evidence of future shortages of supply to meet growing

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