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Article

The Allocation of Groundwater: From Superstition to Science  

Burke W. Griggs

Groundwater is a critical natural resource, but the law has always struggled with it. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the common law developed several doctrines to allocate groundwater among competing users. The groundwater revolution of the mid-20th century produced an explosive growth in pumping worldwide—and quickly exposed the flaws of these doctrines. Legal rules predicated on land and on surface waters could not meet the challenges posed by the common-pool groundwater resource: those of understanding groundwater dynamics, quantifying the impacts of pumping on other water rights, and devising satisfactory remedies. Unfettered by received property restraints, pumping on an industrial, aquifer-wide scale depleted and contaminated aquifers, regardless of doctrine. The groundwater revolution motivated significant legal developments. Starting in the 1970s, the Supreme Court of the United States adapted its methods for resolving interstate water disputes to include the effects of groundwater pumping. This jurisprudence has fundamentally influenced international groundwater law, including the negotiation of trans-boundary aquifer agreements. Advances in hydrogeology and computer groundwater modeling have enabled states and parties to evaluate the effects of basin-wide pumping. Nonetheless, difficult legal and governance problems remain. Which level of government—local, state, or national—should exercise jurisdiction over groundwater? What level of pumping qualifies as “safe yield,” especially when the aquifer is overdrawn? How do the demands of modern environmental law and the public trust doctrine affect groundwater rights? How can governments satisfy long-neglected claims to water justice made by Indigenous and minority communities? Innovations in groundwater management provide promising answers. The conjunctive management of surface and groundwater can stabilize water supplies, improve water quality, and protect ecosystems. Integrated water resources management seeks to holistically manage groundwater to achieve social and economic equity. Water markets can reward water conservation, attract new market participants, and encourage the migration of groundwater allocations to more valuable uses, including environmental uses. The modern law of groundwater allocation combines older property doctrines with 21st-century regulatory ideals, but the mixture can be unstable. In nations with long-established water codes such as the United States, common-law Anglophone nations, and various European nations, groundwater law has evolved, if haltingly, to incorporate permitting systems, environmental regulation, and water markets. Elsewhere, the challenges are extreme. Long-standing calls for groundwater reform in India remain unheeded as tens of millions of unregulated tube wells pump away. In China, chronic groundwater mismanagement and aquifer contamination belie the roseate claims of national water law. Sub-Saharan nations have enacted progressive groundwater laws, but poverty, racism, and corruption have maintained grim groundwater realities. Across the field, experts have long identified the central problems and reached a rough consensus about the most effective solutions; there is also a common commitment to secure environmental justice and protect groundwater-dependent ecosystems. The most pressing legal work thus requires building practical pathways to reach these solutions and, most importantly, to connect the public with the groundwater on which it increasingly depends.

Article

Environmental Policy and the Double Dividend Hypothesis  

Antonio M. Bento

Since the 1990s, the so-called double-dividend debate—that is, the possibility that swaps of newly environmental taxes for existing distortionary taxes such as taxes on labor or capital could simultaneously improve environmental quality and reduce the distortionary costs of tax system—has attracted the attention of policymakers and academics. And while prior to the 1990s environmental economics as a field was not ready to inform this debate, scholars quickly moved to incorporate insights of the theory of second-best from public economics to inform the discussion. The result was a substantial advancement of the field of environmental economics, with the evaluation of the welfare effects of alternative policy instruments relying on general equilibrium models with pre-existing distortions. Initially, scholars casted substantially doubt on the prospects of a double dividend, and suggested that environmental tax reforms would not reduce the distortionary costs of the tax system. This is because studies documented that the tax-interaction effect dominated the revenue-recycling effect. That is, newly environmental taxes interact with pre-existing distortions in labor markets. And even when the revenues of environmental taxes are used to cut the rate of the labor tax, the environmental tax reform exacerbates, rather than alleviate, pre-existing distortions in labor markets. Throughout the 2000s and in more recent decades, the literature has documented many instances where a double dividend is more likely to exist, including in the context of developing countries.

Article

Machine Learning Tools for Water Resources Modeling and Management  

Giorgio Guariso and Matteo Sangiorgio

The pervasive diffusion of information and communication technologies that has characterized the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries has profoundly impacted the way water management issues are studied. The possibility of collecting and storing large data sets has allowed the development of new classes of models that try to infer the relationships between the variables of interest directly from data rather than fit the classical physical and chemical laws to them. This approach, known as “data-driven,” belongs to the broader area of machine learning (ML) methods and can be applied to many water management problems. In hydrological modeling, ML tools can process diverse data sets, including satellite imagery, meteorological data, and historical records, to enhance predictions of streamflow, groundwater levels, and water availability and thus support water allocation, infrastructure planning, and operational decision-making. In water demand management, ML models can analyze historical water consumption patterns, weather data, and socioeconomic factors to predict future water demands. These models can support water utilities and policymakers in optimizing water allocation, planning infrastructure, and implementing effective conservation strategies. In reservoir management, advanced ML tools may be used to determine the operating rule of water structures by directly searching for the management policy or by mimicking a set of decisions with some desired properties. They may also be used to develop surrogate models that can be rapidly executed to determine the optimal course of action as a component of a decision-support system. ML methods have revolutionized water management studies by showing the power of data-driven insights. Thanks to their ability to make accurate forecasts, enhanced monitoring, and optimized resource allocation, adopting these tools is predicted to expand and consistently modify water management practices. Continued advancements in ML tools, data availability, and interdisciplinary collaborations will further propel the use of ML methods to address global water challenges and pave the way for a more resilient and sustainable water future.

Article

Crop Rotation and Climate Change Adaptation in Argentina’s Agriculture Sector  

Ariel R. Angeli, Federico E. Bert, Sandro Díez-Amigo, Yuri Soares, Jaquelina M. Chaij, Gustavo D. Martini, F. Martín Montané, Alejandro Pardo Vegezzi, and Federico Schmidt

During the past two decades, extensive agriculture, particularly soybean production, has progressively replaced other crops in Argentina. This transformation was driven by economic, technological, environmental, and organizational factors, such as the increasing demand for agricultural commodities, technological advances, organizational innovations, and climate fluctuations. The expansion of soybean production has brought a substantial increase in agricultural revenue for Argentina. However, the predominance of soybean cultivation poses significant challenges, such as diminished soil fertility, reduction and increased variability in crop yields, ecological imbalance, increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and vulnerability to climate change. Crop rotation, particularly balanced crop rotation, may result in very large positive impacts on soybean yields, especially in unfavorable climatic conditions such as those experienced during the La Niña ENSO phase in Argentina. In addition to this positive impact on agricultural productivity and climate adaptation, in some contexts crop rotation may also contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions, increased input energy efficiency, and improved environmental outcomes. The 2018 Argentinian Association of Regional Consortia for Agricultural Experimentation and Inter-American Development Bank (AACREA-IADB) Integrated Crop Rotation Database compiled and harmonized the information from agricultural diaries kept by Regional Consortia for Agricultural Experimentation (CREA) members in Argentina from 1998 to 2016. This new consolidated data set has replaced previous regional templates, and it is expected to continue to be expanded with new information periodically, offering opportunities for further research on the impact of crop rotation on climate adaptation and on other topics in agricultural and environmental economics.

Article

Multi-Objective Robust Planning Tools  

Jazmin Zatarain Salazar, Andrea Castelletti, and Matteo Giuliani

Shared water resource systems spark a number of conflicts related to their multi sectorial, regional, and intergenerational use. They are also vulnerable to a myriad of uncertainties stemming from changes in the hydrology, population demands, and climate change. Planning and management under these conditions are extremely challenging. Fortunately, our capability to approach these problems has evolved dramatically over the last few decades. Increased computational power enables the testing of multiple hypotheses and expedites the results across a range of planning alternatives. Advances in flexible multi-objective optimization tools facilitate the analyses of many competing interests. Further, major shifts in the way uncertainties are treated allow analysts to characterize candidate planning alternatives by their ability to fail or succeed instead of relying on fallible predictions. Embracing the fact that there are indeterminate uncertainties whose probabilistic descriptions are unknown, and acknowledging relationships whose actions and outcomes are not well-characterized in planning problems, have improved our ability to perform diligent analysis. Multi-objective robust planning of water systems emerged in response to the need to support planning and management decisions that are better prepared for unforeseen future conditions and that can be adapted to changes in assumptions. A suite of robustness frameworks has emerged to address planning and management problems in conditions of deep uncertainty. That is, events not readily identified or that we know so little about that their likelihood of occurrence cannot be described. Lingering differences remain within existing frameworks. These differences are manifested in the way in which alternative plans are specified, the views about how the future will unfold, and how the fitness of candidate planning strategies is assessed. Differences in the experimental design can yield diverging conclusions about the robustness and vulnerabilities of a system. Nonetheless, the means to ask a suite of questions and perform a more ambitious analysis is available in the early 21st century. Future challenges will entail untangling different conceptions about uncertainty, defining what aspects of the system are important and to whom, and how these values and assumptions will change over time.

Article

Bioeconomic Models  

Ihtiyor Bobojonov

Bioeconomic models are analytical tools that integrate biophysical and economic models. These models allow for analysis of the biological and economic changes caused by human activities. The biophysical and economic components of these models are developed based on historical observations or theoretical relations. Technically these models may have various levels of complexity in terms of equation systems considered in the model, modeling activities, and programming languages. Often, biophysical components of the models include crop or hydrological models. The core economic components of these models are optimization or simulation models established according to neoclassical economic theories. The models are often developed at farm, country, and global scales, and are used in various fields, including agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and environmental sectors. Bioeconomic models are commonly used in research on environmental externalities associated with policy reforms and technological modernization, including climate change impact analysis, and also explore the negative consequences of global warming. A large number of studies and reports on bioeconomic models exist, yet there is a lack of studies describing the multiple uses of these models across different disciplines.

Article

Optimal and Real-Time Control of Water Infrastructures  

Ronald van Nooijen, Demetris Koutsoyiannis, and Alla Kolechkina

Humanity has been modifying the natural water cycle by building large-scale water infrastructure for millennia. For most of that time, the principles of hydraulics and control theory were only imperfectly known. Moreover, the feedback from the artificial system to the natural system was not taken into account, either because it was too small to notice or took too long to appear. In the 21st century, humanity is all too aware of the effects of our adaptation of the environment to our needs on the planetary system as a whole. It is necessary to see the environment, both natural and hman-made as one integrated system. Moreover, due to the legacy of the past, the behaviour of the man-madeparts of this system needs to be adapted in a way that leads to a sustainable ecosystem. The water cycle plays a central role in that ecosystem. It is therefore essential that the behaviour of existing and planned water infrastructure fits into the natural system and contributes to its well-being. At the same time, it must serve the purpose for which it was constructed. As there are no natural feedbacks to govern its behaviour, it will be necessary to create such feedbacks, possibly in the form of real-time control systems. To do so, it would be beneficial if all persons involved in the decision process that establishes the desired system behaviour understand the basics of control systems in general and their application to different water systems in particular. This article contains a discussion of the prerequisites for and early development of automatic control of water systems, an introduction to the basics of control theory with examples, a short description of optimal control theory in general, a discussion of model predictive control in water resource management, an overview of key aspects of automatic control in water resource management, and different types of applications. Finally, some challenges faced by practitioners are mentioned.

Article

State of the Art of Hedonic Pricing  

Dennis Guignet and Jonathan Lee

Hedonic pricing methods have become a staple in the environmental economist’s toolkit for conducting nonmarket valuation. The hedonic pricing method (HPM) is a revealed preference approach used to indirectly infer the value buyers and sellers place on characteristics of a differentiated product. Environmental applications of the HPM are typically focused on housing and labor markets, where the characteristics of interest are local environmental commodities and health risks. Despite the fact that there have been thousands of hedonic pricing studies published, applications of the methodology still often grapple with issues of omitted variable bias, measurement error, sample selection, choice of functional form, effect heterogeneity, and the recovery of policy-relevant welfare estimates. Advances in empirical methodologies, increased quality and quantity of data, and efforts to link empirical results to economic theory will surely further the use of the HPM as an important nonmarket valuation tool.

Article

Review of the State of the Art in Analysis of the Economics of Water Resources Infrastructure  

Marc Jeuland

Water resources represent an essential input to most human activities, but harnessing them requires significant infrastructure. Such water control allows populations to cope with stochastic water availability, preserving uses during droughts while protecting against the ravages of floods. Economic analysis is particularly valuable for helping to guide infrastructure investment choices, and for comparing the relative value of so called hard and soft (noninfrastructure) approaches to water management. The historical evolution of the tools for conducting such economic analysis is considered. Given the multimillennial history of human reliance on water infrastructure, it may be surprising that economic assessments of its value are a relatively recent development. Owing to the need to justify the rapid deployment of major public-sector financing outlays for water infrastructure in the early 20th century, government agencies in the United States—the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation—were early pioneers in developing these applications. Their work faced numerous technical challenges, first addressed in the drafting of the cost-benefit norms of the “Green Book.” Subsequent methodological innovation then worked to address a suite of challenges related to nonmarket uses of water, stochastic hydrology, water systems interdependencies, the social opportunity cost of capital, and impacts on secondary markets, as well as endogenous sociocultural feedbacks. The improved methods that have emerged have now been applied extensively around the world, with applications increasingly focused on the Global South where the best infrastructure development opportunities remain today. The dominant tools for carrying out such economic analyses are simulation or optimization hydroeconomic models (HEM), but there are also other options: economy wide water-economy models (WEMs), sociohydrological models (SHMs), spreadsheet-based partial equilibrium cost-benefit models, and others. Each of these has different strengths and weaknesses. Notable innovations are also discussed. For HEMs, these include stochastic, fuzz, and robust optimization, respectively, as well as co-integration with models of other sectors (e.g., energy systems models). Recent cutting-edge work with WEMs and spreadsheet-based CBA models, meanwhile, has focused on linking these tools with spatially resolved HEMs. SHMs have only seen limited application to infrastructure valuation problems but have been useful for illuminating the paradox of flood management infrastructure increasing the incidence and severity of flood damages, and for explaining the co-evolution of water-based development and environmental concerns, which ironically then devalues the original infrastructure. Other notable innovations are apparent in multicriteria decision analysis, and in game-theoretic modeling of noncooperative water institutions. These advances notwithstanding, several issues continue to challenge accurate and helpful economic appraisal of water infrastructure and should be the subject of future investigations in this domain. These include better assessment of environmental and distributional impacts, incorporation of empirically based representations of costs and benefits, and greater attention to the opportunity costs of infrastructure. Existing tools are well evolved from those of a few decades ago, supported by enhancements in scientific understanding and computational power. Yet, they do appear to systematically produce inflated estimations of the net benefits of water infrastructure. Tackling existing shortcomings will require continued interdisciplinary collaboration between economists and scholars from other disciplines, to allow leveraging of new theoretical insights, empirical data analyses, and modeling innovations.

Article

The Value of the Environment in Recreation  

Gianluca Grilli

Natural environments represent background settings for most outdoor recreation activities, which are important non-consumptive benefits that people obtain from nature. Recreation has been traditionally considered a non-market service because it is practiced free of charge in public spaces and therefore of secondary relevance for the economy. Although outdoor recreation in natural parks became relevant during the 19th century, the increased popularity of recreation after the Second World War required tools for the assessment of recreational benefits, which were not considered in the evaluation of investments in recreational facilities, and increasing spending for recreational equipment captured the attention of outdoor recreation as an economic sector. In the 1990s, it was observed that many recreational activities were commercialized and started being considered equally important to tourism as a means to boost the economy of local communities. The expansion of outdoor recreation is reflected in a growing interest in the economic aspects, including cost–benefit calculations of the investments in recreational facilities and research on appropriate methods to evaluate the non-market benefits of recreation. The first economic technique used for valuing recreation was the travel cost method that consisted in the assessment of a demand curve, where the demanded quantity is the number of trips to a specific site and the cost is the unit cost of travel to the destination. After this first intuition, the number of contributions on recreation valuation exponentially grew, and new methods were proposed, including methods based on stated preferences for recreation that can be used when travel cost data that reveal consumers’ behavior are not available. A regular assessment of recreational benefits has several advantages for public policy, including the evaluation of investments and information on visitor profile and preferences, income, and price elasticity, which are essential to understand the market of outdoor recreation and propose effective strategies and recreation-oriented management. The increasing environmental pressure associated with participation in outdoor recreation required effective conservation activities, which in turn posed limitations to economic activities of local communities who live in contact with natural resources. Therefore, a balance between environmental, social, and economic interests is essential for recreational destination to avail of benefits without conflicts among stakeholders.