Volume 27, Issue 4

December 2011
Thematic Issue on Information for Improving Water Resources Decision Making

Original Articles

Improving the Information Base to Better Guide Water Resource Management Decision Making

Kevin Parris
Policies and Environment Division, Trade and Agriculture Directorate, OECD, Paris, France

Contact: Kevin Parris


This paper presents the main messages as well as the key recommendations presented during the OECD workshop on information base and water resource management decision making, in Zaragoza, Spain, May 2010. Findings include fundamental issues to which further attention should be paid. There is an information imbalance in many countries, with implementation of water policy initiatives often supported by little data or information. There is also the limitation of many countries to collect water information due to lack of resources and loss of expertise to collect, analyze and interpret water data.

Pages: 625-632


Do the Virtual Water and Water Footprint Perspectives Enhance Policy Discussions?

Dennis Wichelns
International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Contact: Dennis Wichelns | Email: d.wichelns@cgiar.org


The notions of virtual water and water footprints are gaining popularity among researchers and practitioners in the field of water resources. Many of the published articles include statements suggesting that public policies regarding water allocation, agriculture, or international trade should reflect consideration of virtual water and water footprints. Yet those notions lack a scientifically tested conceptual framework and they are too narrowly defined to inform policy decisions in a meaningful way. Consumers, firms, and public officials wishing to improve water resource management need and deserve much better information than is contained in estimates of virtual water and water footprints. A more thoughtful, comprehensive approach is needed to develop policies that will truly improve the management of water and other natural resources, while also enhancing livelihoods.

Pages: 633-645


Changing Roles in Canadian Water Management: A Case Study of Agriculture and Water in Canada’s South Saskatchewan River Basin

Darrell R. Corkala, Harry Diazb and David Sauchync
aAgri-Environment Services Branch, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; bSociology and Social Studies, University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; cPrairie Adaptation Research Collaborative, University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Contact: Harry Diaz | Email: harry.diaz@uregina.ca


This paper explores changing roles in Canadian water management, by focusing on a case study of agriculture and water in Western Canada. Challenges in water management include unequal adaptive capacity, gaps in water and climate data, locally relevant options, short- and longterm planning, among others. This empirical study offers insight for improved water management decision-making for all regions. There is a need for improving and integrating water management with climate scenarios, collecting more and better water/climate data, improving water governance and long-term planning, and developing strong communication channels between governance organizations and local communities. Positive trends towards effective and adaptive water management include the incorporation of watershed groups, basin planning, and the use of multidisciplinary approaches to guide decision-making.

Pages: 647-664


Drivers of Economic Information in River Basin Planning

Josefina Maestua and Carlos Mario Gomezb
aDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs, Water Decade Programme, United Nations, Zaragoza;  bDepartment of Economics, Universidad de Alcala and IMDEA Water, Alcalá de Henares, Spain

Contact: Carlos Mario Gomez | Email: mario.gomez@uah.es


Modern water policy requires new kinds of economic information in order to improve the ability of stakeholders and water authorities to analyze the whole set of alternatives available, to provide transparency and to assess and adapt water decisions to the emerging water management challenges. Considering this, we present an overview of the main drivers of economic information in the European water policy agenda as defined by the Water Framework Directive. After a brief introduction, the paper explains how basic economic statistics have been used to carry out the economic analysis of water use for the preparation of river basin management plans. We present the strategies used to enhance the usefulness of the economic information already available. The paper ends with a reflection on what parts of the economic information gaps have been satisfactorily dealt with and what the remaining gaps are.

Pages: 665-676


Consequences of Increasing Environmental Complexity in the Water Domain

Rudy Vannevel
Flemish Environment Agency (VMM), Erembodegem, Belgium

Contact: Rudy Vannevel | Email: r.vannevel@vmm.be


The increasing complexity of environmental policy is a result of new and global environmental issues and IT developments. Global environmental impacts seem to result in new forms of governance and practices. This may require new or broader conceptual frameworks. Beside the disturbance chain (DPSIR), a well-structured process of data and information flows is also needed. Water mass and load balances also offer a lot of opportunities and may serve as a basic tool for policy measures, sustainable development or the development of complex indicators. It will be shown that balances relate in a stepwise pattern to a broad and high-level policy, making this process more efficient and effective. This approach is of practical use for integrated water management, although the description of this term should be restricted in favour of new terms dealing explicitly with governance aspects.

Pages: 667-691


General Papers

Opportunity Costs of Ensuring Sustainability in Urban Water Services 

Francisco J. Sáez-Fernándeza, Francisco González-Gómezb and Andrés J. Picazo-Tadeoc
aDepartamento de Economía Internacional y de España, Universidad de Granada, Spain; bDepartamento de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Granada, Spain; cDepartamento de Economía Aplicada II, Universidad de Valencia, Spain

Contact: Francisco González-Gómez | Email: fcojose@ugr.es


This paper assesses technical performance in the water industry in the Southern European region of Andalusia, while accounting for sustainability in the management of water. This allows the opportunity cost of producing sustainability to be evaluated. Given the low cost of raw water in Spain in relation to the estimated opportunity cost of saving this natural resource, wasting water becomes a profitable strategy for utility managers from a private perspective. However, this managerial strategy has a huge social cost in an area of Europe where the sustainable management of water is a pressing need. The conclusion is that environmental policy aimed at discouraging this wasteful behaviour is urgently needed. For this reason, a suitable mix of environmental taxes on water abstraction and institutional reforms is proposed.

Pages: 693-708


Can Sector Reforms Improve Efficiency? Insight from Irrigation Management Transfer in Central India 

Nitin Bassia and M. Dinesh Kumarb
aInstitute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Delhi, India; bInstitute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad, India

Contact: Nitin Bassi | Email: nitinbassi@irapindia.org


This paper discusses the implementation of the Participatory Irrigation Management Act in Central India where the responsibility of irrigation management was partially transferred to the end users through the formation of farmers’ organizations. The paper focuses on various reforms carried out as per the Act, and their impacts on irrigation management. Analysis shows that such programmes will reap intended benefits, if the end users are involved in a more effective manner with greater autonomy and delegation of powers. Further, for greater effectiveness, the Participatory Irrigation Management Act needs to enable a few institutional changes, which can be more suitable for the end users.

Pages: 709-721


Conflicting Objectives of Trinidad’s Water Pricing Policy: A Need for Good Water Pricing and Governance

Michelle Mycoo
Department of Geomatics Engineering and Land Management, Faculty of Engineering, University of the West Indies, Trinidad

Contact: Michelle Mycoo | Email: michelle.mycoo@sta.uwi.edu


Water pricing policy is determined by multiple, though conflicting objectives. This paper analyzes flat water charges for households based on property values, using Trinidad as a case study. A major finding is that this tariff is economically inefficient and encourages water wastage which becomes environmentally unsustainable. Also, while social equity is a main objective in using this method of water pricing, in reality this is compromised. A key contribution of this paper is that water supply is regular in many countries where flat rates are used, but Trinidad consumers suffer from water shortages. The politics of water pricing and poor governance explain this anomaly in service, economic inefficiency, social inequity, and environmentally unsustainable water management.

Pages: 723-736


Gains from Improved Irrigation Water Use Efficiency in Egypt 

Abdelaziz A. Gohara and Frank A. Warda,b

aDepartment of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003, USA and Department of Agricultural Economics, College of Agriculture, South Valley University, Qena, Egypt; a,bDepartment of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003, USA.


Egypt’s fortunes hinge on the Nile. However, little research to date has evaluated economic efficiency improvements that could be achieved by altering Egypt’s agricultural water use patterns. This study develops an integrated catchment scale framework to identify potential economic benefits that can be supported by Egypt’s irrigation water use. An optimization framework is developed to identify improvements in national farm income, which can be produced with current water supplies that are compatible with Egypt’s hydrological, environmental, and institutional constraints. Results suggest that limited water trading across locations and seasons can increase national farm income by up to 28%. The methods used provide a framework for informing decisions on sustainable use of land and water for improved rural livelihoods in the developing world’s irrigated areas.

Pages: 737-758


Energy Demand Considerations for the Supply of Domestic Water in Jamaica 

Andreas Haiduka and Amani Ishemob
aWater Resources Authority, Kingston, Jamaica; bFaculty of the Built Environment, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Technology, Kingston, Jamaica

Contact: Andreas Haiduk | Email: andreas_haiduk@yahoo.com


Jamaica’s water supply sector is recognized as the largest electricity consumer in the island’s public sector. This paper evaluates whether replacing high-cost groundwater abstraction with surface water treatment and distribution is a viable option to minimize electricity consumption in the water sector. The findings suggest that a change from groundwater abstraction to surface water treatment and distribution by conveying surface water around the island incurs higher electricity costs compared to the present supply model (reliance on ground water). However, as part of a strategy for a more efficient water sector it is recommended that the above approach be further evaluated with more economic considerations, engineering designs and possible storage facilities to reduce the time of pumping of ground water.

Pages: 759-768


Resettling Farm Households in Northwestern Vietnam: Livelihood Change and Adaptation 

Thi Minh Hang Bui and  Pepijn Schreinemachers
Department of Land Use Economics in the Tropics and Subtropics, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany

Contact: Thi Minh Hang Bui | Email: t.bui@uni-hohenheim.de


This paper examines how a resettlement programme in northwestern Vietnam has affected the livelihood assets, strategies and outcomes of the resettled and host households. Data were collected using informal interviews, followed by a structured survey of 56 resettled and 52 host households. Results show a significant decline in natural capital for the resettled households and a lesser decline for the host households; however, both groups have partially compensated for this through land use intensification. The net income of the host households did not change significantly after resettlement, whereas the farm revenues of the resettled households fell dramatically, but, due to the compensation payments made to them, their net household income actually increased. Most compensation money has been consumed rather than invested in livelihood assets; livelihood outcomes might therefore deteriorate when the compensation payments end.

Pages: 769-785


Conference Report

International Workshop on Water Pricing and Roles of Public and Private Sectors in Efficient Urban Water Management »