Water is important – ask any of us who live in the South East of England (where CABI is based) and have had to live with the hosepipe bans (and threats of worse restrictions) this year. So much for the green and pleasant land. But, being serious, water management IS important and figuring out what works and what does not is vital, especially in regions of the world that do not recieve anything like the UK’s copious amounts of rainfall.

So it’s good to announce that this new review from Siwa Msangi, Claudia Ringler and Mark Rosegrant at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington DC focuses on approaches taken in the United States to sustainably manage a variety of water resources.

The full article is behind access control, but the link above will take you to the abstract. In addition, here’s a section of the introduction as well…

Growing pressures on global natural resources –
particularly water – has sharpened the concentration of policymakers
and environmental managers on the need to enhance sustainability
through the judicious application of well-designed national and
basin-level policies. In the face of growing demands for water and
ever-increasing scarcity, water resource managers and policymakers are
looking for more innovative strategies to increase the efficiency of
water use and allocation, and are paying greater attention to the
management of demand through provision of efficiency-enhancing
incentives. While there
might be shifts towards activities that are
less reliant on water – such as rain-fed or drought-tolerant
agricultural production in some regions, there remains a clear need
enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of irrigation water delivery,
as a large share of food production continues to rely on irrigation –
especially in critical graingrowing
regions of Northern China or the Indo-Gangetic Plains of India

traditional approach to water-focused policy intervention has been
rather centralized in nature, and has tended to rely on the ability of
the central resource manager (or management authority) to intervene
correctly and effectively in addressing the resource allocation
problems at hand. The information burden that is placed upon the
central managing authority, in such a case, is considerable, as it
entails having an accurate knowledge of the state of the resource at
all times, as well as having knowledge of the potential benefits that
will accrue to each of the agents being considered in an allocation of
the water resource. While this kind of knowledge might be plausible
within a fairly small-scale village-type of setting, or in a situation
where there are only a few farmers
receiving allocations, it becomes
more daunting as the scope of the allocation scheme increases (relative
to the number of agents receiving allocations).

In more recent
years, the application of market-based approaches to the re-allocation
and control of water resources has been increasing, being largely
motivated by the desire to enhance economic efficiency through the
decentralization of transfers and re-allocations of
water allotments
or quotas. A key component to these types of decentralized mechanisms
of re-allocation is the assignment of rights to water allocations,
which are
transferable and whose benefits are able to be fully
appropriated by the holder of those rights. In particular, the
allocation of property rights to the water-consuming agents has been
shown to greatly affect the outcome of agent decisions, and to
pre-determine the proper functioning of the governing institutions that
oversee and regulate their actions. The role that water rights has
played in enhancing the effectiveness of Water User

(WUA) has been well-documented, and has been shown to operate within a
variety of settings, ranging from developing country contexts such as
China, Mexico and India.

Doing the right thing with water: combining market-based principles
with policy intervention for the sustainable management of water in


CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources,  2006, 1, No. 037, 13 pp.
Received: 17 May 2006; Accepted: 18 September 2006
Published October 2006

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