Drop by drop

Good special report from The Economist on the state of the world’s fresh water demand and supply. Not surprisingly, the report stresses the point that water is woefully underpriced:

[Chris] Perry, the irrigation economist, says water is typically priced at 10-50% of the costs of operating and maintaining the system, and that in turn is only 10-50% of what water is worth in terms of agricultural productivity. So to bring supply and demand into equilibrium the price would have to rise by 4-100 times.

Unfortunately, water access and pricing is a hot, hot political issue; the report concludes that a mixture of regulation, property rights, pricing, and small-community management (a farmers’ co-op in India’s Andhra Pradesh state is visited) may be the only way to go. One thinks of the acequias of the American Southwest as described by Stanley Crawford in The River in Winter and Mayordomo.

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