You are here: Home Knowledge Base Environment Tackling the Tragedy of the Water Commons Proposals Tackling the Tragedy of the Water Commons
Symposium 2010

Proposal - Tackling the Tragedy of the Water Commons

The Challenge

Water is one of our basic resources, but it is often in short supply not only for human use but also for ecological systems. While in some countries groundwater resources still are abundant and read ...

Water is one of our basic resources, but it is often in short supply not only for human use but also for ecological systems. While in some countries groundwater resources still are abundant and readily available for development, in others depletion due to overdrafting, water-logging, salination as well as pollution cause severe problems.

Shift the focus in water management away from technical solutions like building dams and pipelines.

Suitable adaptation strategies for managing water scarcity will differ between regions and sectors. China for example has started a huge project including the construction of pipelines to sustain water supplies for households and industry in the growing Beijing area. Where appropriate, this might be a solution for other countries at different scales as well. However, taking into account the substantial inefficiencies due to evaporation, likely adverse environmental side effects, high investment costs as well as uncertainties related to the amount of water that could be supplied, the extent to which this strategy can help to solve the problem of water-shortage seems limited.

Shift to more integral ideas like importing water in the form of food.

Compared to industry and residential water use, the agricultural sector is the largest consumer of water. Today, many wart-short regions and countries still use the little water they have for growing crops. With climate change impacting on these regions, water availability is likely to decline and competition for water use is likely to rise. Importing water-intensive agricultural products from countries where water is more plentifully available is, therefore, one possibility for water-short countries to preserve domestic water resources.

Implement effective techniques for water conservation tailored to local and regional circumstances.

Another option to preserve water is to help developing countries to implement more efficient irrigation technologies. Today a lot of water is wasted by the use of old irrigation systems. Investing in rain water harvesting could alleviate the problem as well. Since markets for water are not well functioning or do not exist in many countries and regions, policies need to be implemented that are able to signal the demand and supply more realistically. All this needs to be accompanied by raising the awareness of producers and implementing incentives for more efficient water use. Knowledge transfer and capacity building at this level is essential.

Increase the ability of local communities to manage their own water resources.

Local management of water resources should be conducted in a partnership of public and private bodies and include all local stakeholders. This can induce innovative ideas and increase acceptance of new water policies as well as participation in water conservation activities. This requires capacity building of the local community, especially farmers, but also of municipal officials. Moreover, institutional arrangements need to be designed according to local and regional requirements and corruption and inefficiencies in local municipalities need to be countered.

Increase consumer awareness about the water footprint of products, so that demand can take water scarcity issues into account.

The consumer plays an important role for global water consumption. Often, consumers do not know how much water enters into the production chain of a product or if the water used for production comes from regions where water is already scarce. To raise consumer awareness, products could be labeled providing information on the water content needed for production, the degree of water-scarcity present in the area of production as well as on the water-use efficiency of production processes. Like for fish or organic products, certification and labeling of products could be a way to inform consumers about sustainable water use. This could not only help consumers in taking appropriate decisions, also producers could benefit from concise information about the amount of water used during the different stages of production. Together with a more sensible pricing system, this could influence investment decisions and enhance water efficiency in production.

    Related Proposals

    Proposal
    Symposium 2010

    Water storage: an insurance against climate change

    Agriculture uses about 70% of the available water resources in many countries.  Increasing competition for water suggests that a gap between supply and demand will emerge by 2030 given current rates ...

    Agriculture uses about 70% of the available water resources in many countries.  Increasing competition for water suggests that a gap between supply and demand will emerge by 2030 given current rates of economic development and water usage. In India this gap has been predicted to be as high as 50%.  Climate change threatens to increase temperatures and evaporation, shorten wet seasons and intensify storms. As a response to these factors, that will impact all water users, it is imperative that we investigate to what extent and by what methods we can increase water storage. Countries like the USA and Australia store approximately 5000-6000

    Polity, Business
    Proposal
    Symposium 2010

    Tackling the Tragedy of the Water Commons

    Manage and increase productivity of the full water resource Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater. On a global average, almost two third of the ‘blue’ water withdrawn for irrigation fr ...

    Manage and increase productivity of the full water resource Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater. On a global average, almost two third of the ‘blue’ water withdrawn for irrigation from rivers, reservoirs and aquifers is lost before reaching the field and boosting crop production. While this situation can be improved by funding and implementation of more efficient irrigation systems and better maintenance of existing systems, there are huge, largely underexplored potentials for improving the use of ‘green’ water (precipitation stored in the soil) particularly in rainfed agriculture, e.g. by techniques of soil conservation and rainwater harvesting. Unlocking such

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Proposal
    Symposium 2010

    Tackling the Tragedy of the Water Commons

    Plan for a water resilient economy Who speaks for the commons? In that sense do we assume the commons is us or the resource from which we over-draw? Water is often decoupled from major debates – fro ...

    Plan for a water resilient economy Who speaks for the commons? In that sense do we assume the commons is us or the resource from which we over-draw? Water is often decoupled from major debates – from climate, the green economy, energy security and the MDGs, yet water literally underpins our societies, our food and energy systems, our health and our economies. When water stops flowing, life literally grinds to a halt. The maintenance of key river processes such as environmental flows and connectivity, we argue are the foundation on which water security is built. Compromising these basic elements of

    Polity, Business, Civil Society