Governing water, governing ourselves July 22, 2008Posted by Raul in academic life, environment, public policy issues, sustainability, urbanization, water, water policy.
Tags: common pool resource theory, environmental policy, public policy, water policy
Continuing on my research-related posts, I have previously talked about my research on wastewater governance, on environmental NGO mobilization, and now I’ll briefly talk about what I have studied on water supply governance.
I was going to leave this post all the way until Blogathon, but Arieanna’s recent post on “Canada, the water” reminded me of the relevance of understanding how water supplies and water management works (great post Arieanna by the way). Arieanna’s post calls attention to the fact that the bottled water being sold at Whole Foods was pretty much targeted towards tourist buyers.
What worries me a bit more is not so much the privatization and commodification of water, but the misconceptions of water availability on this planet. According to the 2nd. United Nations Word Water Report, between 25 and 40% of the world’s drinking water comes from ground sources (groundwater).
This fact should be scary to people, but I’m not sure that people who live in Canada and particularly British Columbia (since we are so well served by our watersheds and local reservoirs) realize the degree of water scarcity that pervades the world, even if there is a generalized perception that . Therefore, it’s not hard to think that many people have a reason to be rightfully annoyed by the increasing privatization of water supplies.
Given the investment and capital costs that need to be covered in order to provide groundwater for drinking purposes, I would imagine that people would be cognizant of water scarcity and avoid increasing demand on water reserves, both by conserving water and by recycling grey water. In one of my research projects, I have looked at the use of common pool resource (CPR) theory to try and understand the conflicts amongst two communities who share and access the same aquifer (in Mexico).
The nature of public accessibility of aquifers makes them an excellent laboratory to study the behavior of communities who have to share a common resource that can be depleted if inappropriately managed. The purpose of my post was (as subtly suggested in the header) to indicate that in order to appropriately manage or govern water, we need to first learn to govern ourselves and control our natural consumptive instinct, in order to avoid depletion of our water reserves. Will we be able to do that? And how can we increase the visibility of the challenges of governing water when we can clearly see that other issues (such as climate change) are so high up in the environmental agenda in Canada?
More resources and materials for reading:
– The World Water Assessment Project page – Provides lots of information and good statistics. The UNESCO International Hydrological Programme is currently putting together the 3rd World Water Report.
– CBC Series on Water – While I am VERY weary of pointing people out to media sources instead of academic sources, I kind of liked this series.
– The National Water Research Institute of Environment Canada – Basically focuses on freshwater, but a good resource nonetheless.
– The International Water Resources Association (IWRA).