Introduction to the Economics of Water Resources: An International Perspective

Introduction to the Economics of Water Resources: An International Perspective

Introduction to the Economics of Water Resources: An International Perspective

Introduction to the Economics of Water Resources: An International Perspective

Synopsis

Merrett provides a concise but comprehensive treatment of one of the central issues in environmental management. Informed by an evolutionary political economy perspective, this text draws on a worldwide range of case studies and examples.

Excerpt

Sunlight, air, the soil and water-these are the fundamental requirements of all life on Earth. In the specific case of water, the human body cannot survive without it, it plays a vital part in sanitation for our rural and urban communities, it is necessary to all forms of agriculture, and is demanded for the majority of industrial processes. So, water is a key natural resource for human society.

Unlike sunlight and air, we know that rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters can all be appropriated into the ownership of public or private bodies. For this reason alone, water is not merely a natural resource but also an economic resource. This is true even though in many countries no price is set on water's use, no sum of money charged per unit consumed. This is the case whenever users enjoy unrestricted physical access to fresh water; and also where water is supplied to users by public or private water companies but its volume is not measured. In the latter case, water charges are widely collected by means of a fixed charge levied on water consumers.

Priced or not, we should still recognize that for most societies the collection and distribution of fresh water requires human labour and, often, civil engineering infrastructures, as was the case in ancient Egypt, Imperial China and the Inca civilization. So, for this reason too, water is and always has been an economic resource. In more recent times, this understanding has become much more widely accepted because of the economic and financial costs imposed by laws to protect water quality; because of water scarcity and the associated competition between users; and as a result of the global shift to the privatization of public sector infrastructures since the end of the 1970s.

If water is so fundamental a biological and social requirement, and if it is now widely recognized to be an economic good, then there is a need for hydroeconomics-the economics of water resources-and there is a potentially varied audience with an interest in that subject. This book is intended to meet the needs of both students and professionals in the fields of economics, engineering, environmental science, environmental studies, geography and hydrology. As an introduction to the subject, prior knowledge is assumed of neither economics nor hydrology. To facilitate the learning process, the analytical content of each of the next seven chapters is always followed by one or more case studies, drawing their material from . . .

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