Valuing Water for Sustainable Development

7th November 2017

I had the opportunity to be a discussant during one of the panels at the one-day Valuing Water for Sustainable Development event at Corpus Christi College on 7 November 2017. The one day forum was organised by the School of Geography and Environment, the Environmental Change Institute and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. The purpose of the one-day forum was to advance new approaches to water valuation, finance and water allocation. The event brought together academics, practitioners from the public sector, donors, and private sector partners to advance action and learning from global experiences on the “value” of water.

I specifically contributed inputs and questions from my D.Phil research on the impacts of irrigation investments on farmer behaviour patterns in Madhya Pradesh, India. The session that I contributed to focused on water markets for inclusive development. Growing sectoral competition for water, and resource shocks, are intensifying pressure for reallocation. Economists argue markets can deliver billions in gains from trade, but political, regulatory and technological obstacles often thwart this potential. This panel convened experts such as Dr. Richard Damania (Global Lead Economist, Water Global Practice, World Bank), Dr. Dustin Garrick (Co-Director and Departmental Lecturer, Smith School for Enterprise and Environment Water Programme), Dr. Nicholas Brozovic (Director of Policy, Daughtery Water for Food Global Institute, University of Nebraska), Ms. Kathleen Dominique (Environmental Economist, OECD) and Dr. Tushaar Shah (Senior Fellow, International Water Management Institute, Gujarat, India). The panelists presented on their experiences and attempted to show case how water reallocation and well-governed markets can contribute to inclusive development, when paired with advances in water accounting, innovative trading platforms and financial models, and institutional strengthening. I, specifically, discussed on the data from my research, which shows that despite the provisions of investments in rehabilitated irrigation canals and the development of community water user organisations – Indian farmers do not seem to be adopting water saving irrigation practices. I raised the question to the panel about the role of behaviour change and investing in small-scale informational and “nudge” campaigns that can incentivize farmers in the absence of pricing for irrigation water in India. The panelists agreed that this was indeed an important area for further exploration as without a pricing signal farmers do have a tendency to over irrigate in India – particularly as farmers do not know how much they are pumping as they have no way to measure this. The panelists agreed that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” and this area poses a major challenge for farmers in India. The findings of my forthcoming D.Phil. papers will further explore this topic.
Ranu Sinha – MPhil MSc Water Science, Policy and Management

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