Water and Sustainability Essay

Pages: 8 (3130 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Geography

Water and Sustainability

Economic Approaches

Introduction / Generalizations: The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of the Global Water Partnership has issued an urgent yet coherent series of proposals. For starters, the need for sensible, workable programs to deal with the exploding world population is acute, according to TAC. The list of challenges is long but without the "will to act" by the political players and the affected communities, the crisis can only get progressively worse. For starters, the Dublin Principles should be on the opening page of the bible of world water resources (if there was one): a) fresh water as a resource is finite and vulnerable, and sustains life, economics and the environment; b) a participatory process should be in place to manage water development and water resources; c) women "play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water; and d) water has an economic value and should be seen as an "economic good" (TAC, pp. 13-14).

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It is the responsibility of governments (at all levels) to establish the model for participation by all parties. Indeed the past failures in water resources management have been because water "is still" -- and has been -- viewed as a "free good." (TAC p. 18). But on the other hand, when water is treated as "an economic good" that helps provide a balance between supply and demand. This is where IWRM comes in -- Integrated Water Resources Management. Water managers in the past have seen themselves in a "neutral" role but integrated management means that freshwater and salt water systems must be integrated into one strategy; and land management and water management must also be integrated, because the crops and other vegetation that are part of land use have potent implications vis-a-vis water resources nearby (TAC, pp. 23-24).

Essay on Water and Sustainability Assignment

The authors go on to link the integration of other resources (surface water / groundwater; upstream / downstream; fresh water / wastewater, etc.) but at the heart of any successful water resource integrated policy is having economic planners and land use policy-makers on the same page (TAC, p. 27). Legislators must have the political will to pass laws and enforce laws otherwise these integrated systems won't work (p. 36). An important part of making linkages workable in integrated policy structures is changing "top down" authority ladders to "bottom up" strategies. That means new institutions must be in place based on communities needs and input. The regional or state power structure must be willing to "charge for water" and to enforce existing law involving wastewater permits and land use planning issues.

My conclusion with regard to private property rights: when farmers are involved in the management of water resources (as individual landowners or in farm associations) it helps establish a feeling of ownership -- one step beyond stewardship. Private property owners' input into the political and environmental formula is frequently a "precondition for improved and more sustainable management of assets and resources" (TAC / IWRM p. 50).

My conclusion regarding the merits of water markets: While in some instances it is difficult to place a value on water in the market, when markets don't truly reflect the value of water, additional mechanisms must be brought in to bring water to its "highest value" (TAC, p. 56). Further, when systems of trade for water are being established economically-based market mechanisms must be established and agreed upon by all parties. In Hawaii for example, some 43% of the agricultural water resources are used by private corporations (sugar and pineapple), hence a "classic case of oligopoly in action" (Gopalakrishnan, 2005, p. 9). Indeed, the sugar industry applies about 278 million gallons per day to its cane fields, and golf courses' "rapid escalation" of water use (there are over 60 golf courses in Hawaii) "has cut into the water available for other uses" and is a source of conflict in Hawaii. The point of mentioning Hawaii in this context is that author Gopalakrishnan has created a "hypothetical water market" using actual prices, and from that market idea he can estimate the "potential loss of revenues…from the oligopolistic control of Hawaii's water resources. On page 20 Gopalakrishnan asserts that the establishment of water markets in Hawaii and water pricing is essential to preserve fresh water in the state.

Gopalakrishnan also notes that when a water market is established, the "management of demand through the use of the pricing mechanism" cuts down on the waste, eliminates (at least partially) the overuse by corporate interests, and ensures "social equity" (p. 135). In Iran the "mirab" (person in charge of water distribution) is paid in cash, sells shares based on a water market value, or takes crops in trade for water usage (Gopalakrishnan, p. 139). It's an ancient system but again, it establishes a market value for water. Water isn't "free" anywhere really, but too many nations and principalities have no water market established and hence a hodge-podge of rules and a lack of accountability rules the day.

"Full-fledged water markets" have been instituted as major water management reforms in several countries around the world, according to Maria Carmen Lemos (2008, p. 250). By implementing a policy that "reframes" water as a "common good with economic value -- that is, a good for which users should pay" -- a debate will likely ensue between policymakers and stakeholders, Lemos writes. But if users "are made to pay for a good that they have customarily been able to access free of charge," they are far more likely to conserve what they pay for. Getting things for free does not engender as much value to the user as having to shell out money.

In Chile market forces have played a "major role" in making sure that only the highest value user gets the water, which is "an important principle of IWRM" (Pena, et al.). Chile's government did not allow the privatization of the water utilities until a public regulatory system was "well-established," Pena writes (p. 5). The private utilities were allowed to charge for their services, basically initiating a water market; and no public protests were heard, Pena continues, since the water market cost system coincided with "a period of high economic growth" (7% per year). Had the water suddenly started costing money in a market system things would not have gone so smoothly, Pena adds (p. 5).

What the Chile experience shows is that IWRM strategies must be "adaptable and dynamic, not fixed and inflexible" (Pena, p. 5). Economic incentives, "especially effective water pricing and the creation of water markets" are potentially helpful measures to boost water productivity (Postel, 2003, p. 112). Water markets, Postel goes on, give opportunities to conservation groups, government agencies and "others to purchase water or water rights specifically to enhance water flows" (Postel, p. 112).

According to F. Lee Brown (1997) there are cultural aspects to be factored into the use of water as a commodity to be sold or traded in the United States. Native American and Latino communities have traditionally rejected the idea that water should cost anything. It's a cultural issue with those communities. But non-Indian communities who face shortages of water have "always treaded water as an economic model," Brown explains (p. 2). Brown's contention is that every civilization in history has treated water as an economic commodity during times of scarcity. Brown also recognizes the difficulties in distinguishing between water as an economic commodity and water as a commercial commodity "…distinct and divorced from its value to the community in many ways that differ from its economic scarcity value alone" (Brown, p. 4).

When water became more of a commercial commodity (partly due to the U.S. Supreme Court in Sporhase v. Nebraska) subject to interstate commerce clause scrutiny, that's when many people worried that Los Angeles would suck far more water out of the Colorado River than other entities simply because Los Angeles had the money to pay for it. Brown posits that if communities' norms, values, customs are "conducive to the emergence of water markets, by all means let markets evolve…" He adds though, "keep a watchful eye that they don't become noncompetitive" (Brown, p. 4).

In Australia, tools to manage the precious few resources available have been put in place for centuries. Indeed, water is readily available in the north but much of the continent is dry and subject to drought, and the unpredictability and unreliability of precipitation requires the government to administer resources wisely (Hussainy, et al., 2007). In the 19th Century, Australia adopted the Irrigation Act of 1886, asserting that all streams are public property. Due to the shortage of water, all surface rights in Victoria have been "naturalized" and riparian rights have effectively been abolished throughout Australia.

But more regulation is needed in Australia. Politicians are not implementing correct policy tools to link economics and ecology. The Murray-Darling River Complex has thirty-three different government departments have hands into the management of this water resources and 256 local governments "have a stake in it" (Hussainy, p. 205). The economics… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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