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Article

The Problem of Water Markets  

Michael Hanemann

Water marketing and property right reform are intertwined. Water markets are advocated as a solution for water scarcity, but changes in water rights are often required if the scope of water marketing is to expand. This is true in many countries, including (but not limited to) the United States and Australia. The focus here is on the United States. So far, water marketing in the Western United States is not producing long-run reallocation on the scale expected. The chief impediment is the complexities in existing water rights. An important distinction is between a property right to extract water and put it to use versus a contractual right to receive water from a supply organization. In the United States, the property right to water is a unique form of property. Unlike land, it is a right of use, not ownership; the quantity afforded by the right is incompletely specified; and the ability to transfer it is constrained by the obligation to avoid harm through the externality of return flows and also by unreliable historical records of rights. These constraints are often relaxed for short-term transfers (leases) of a property right lasting only a year or two. Also, these constraints generally do not apply to a contract right to receive water. Thus, most of the surface water transferred in the United States is either contract water moving within supply system boundaries or short-term leases of appropriative rights. These transfers tend to provide short-run flexibility for water users rather than long-run reallocation. For more significant long-run reallocation of water, some modification of the property right to water is essential. Devising a politically acceptable way to make the needed changes is the ultimate constraint on water marketing.

Article

The Harms and Crimes of Water Theft and Pollution  

Katja Eman

Water is a natural resource vital for the sustenance of life. Any harm against water resources should thus be recognized as a crime—defined in procedural and moral terms as wrongdoings determined within the legal justice system and social norms. With water scarcity and related crises, water protection has become a crucial concept, one impacting political, social, economic, and other fields. Therefore, identifying, defining, and prosecuting different forms of water crimes are essential. In this context, even the use of the term “water crimes” communicates the severe consequences of such activities for society. Water theft and water pollution are only two among various forms of crime against water resources, causing irreparable harm and damage, mainly due to the multiple dimensions of such crimes, in many areas. Water theft is understood as any form of stealing water from the natural water resources or water supply system to obtain an economic advantage by physically altering the supply system. Water pollution means any intentional contamination of water. The consequences of both crimes are a reduction in the quantity (and quality) of water, causing harm to the natural environment and its inhabitants (i.e., plants, animals, and humans). Moreover, most cases of serious water theft or pollution can end in the loss of life, including human life.

Article

Rethinking Water Markets  

Rupert Quentin Grafton, James Horne, and Sarah A. Wheeler

Global water extractions from streams, rivers, lakes, and aquifers are continuously increasing, yet some four billion people already face severe water scarcity for at least one month per year. Deteriorating water security will, in the absence in how water is governed, get worse with climate change, as modeling projections indicate that much of the world’s arid and semiarid locations will receive less rainfall into the future. Concomitant with climate change is a growing world population, expected to be about 10 billion by 2050, that will greatly increase the global food demand, but this demand cannot be met without increased food production that depends on an adequate supply of water for agriculture. This poses a global challenge: How to ensure immediate and priority needs (such as safe drinking water) are satisfied without compromising future water security and the long-term sustainability of freshwater ecosystems? An effective and sustainable response must resolve the “who gets what water and when” water allocation problem and promote water justice. Many decision makers, however, act as if gross inequities in water access can be managed by “business as usual” and upgrades in water infrastructure alone. But much more is needed if the world is to achieve its Sustainable Development Goal of “water and sanitation for all” by 2030. Transformational change is required such that the price paid for water by users includes the economic costs of supply and use and the multiple values of water. Water markets in relation to physical volumes of water offer one approach, among others, that can potentially deliver transformational change by: (a) providing economic incentives to promote water conservation and (b) allowing water to be voluntarily transferred among competing users and uses (including non-uses for the environment and uses that support cultural values) to increase the total economic value from water. Realizing the full potential of water markets, however, is a challenge, and formal water markets require adequate regulatory oversight. Such oversight, at a minimum, must ensure: (a) the metering, monitoring, and compliance of water users and catchment-scale water auditing; (b) active compliance to protect both buyers and sellers from market manipulations; and (c) a judiciary system that supports the regulatory rules and punishes noncompliance. In many countries, the institutional and water governance framework is not yet sufficiently developed for water markets. In some countries, such as Australia, China, Spain, and the United States, the conditions do exist for successful water markets, but ongoing improvements are still needed as circumstances change in relation to water users and uses, institutions, and the environment. Importantly, into the future, water markets must be designed and redesigned to promote both water security and water justice. Without a paradigm shift in how water is governed, and that includes rethinking water markets to support efficiency and equitable access, billions of people will face increasing risks to their livelihoods and lives and many fresh-water environments will face the risk of catastrophic decline.

Article

Politics of Local Community Engagement in Transboundary Water Negotiations  

Isabela Espindola and Pilar Villar

The sharing of transboundary water resources, whether surface or groundwater, is a significant challenge, both in theory and practice. Countries in situations of sharing these natural resources are predisposed to interact with each other. These interactions, here called transboundary water interactions, are characterized by the coexistence of cooperation and conflict, which can arise at different governance levels. However, negotiations around transboundary water resources primarily occur between diplomats and high government members from riparian countries and river basin organization (RBO) managers. Transboundary water negotiations are usually considered high-level political discussions, given the complexity and scale of the water challenges. Consequently, decision-making processes incorporate only a limited number of participants, who make decisions capable of impacting the entire population that depend on the shared waters. Over the last 20 years, there has been a need for greater transparency and a participatory process in transboundary water negotiations, especially for local community engagement and collaboration in these processes. Many of the negotiation processes around transboundary water resources need the participation of municipalities and local populations, concomitant with the involvement of RBOs, to carry out decisions to manage transboundary waters in an integrated manner. There are several reasons for this demand, including negotiation effectiveness, contestation prevention, data sharing, ensuring continuing participation and collaboration, and promoting public awareness related to water resources. Discussing social participation, particularly in the management of transboundary water resources, requires attention to the historical context and its constraints. Considering the enormous challenge, the experiences of local community engagement in transboundary water negotiations in South America, especially from the Guarani Aquifer and the La Plata Basin, are good examples for improving this discussion around transboundary water interactions and local community engagement. The La Plata Basin is the second-largest transboundary basin in the continent, shared by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay, while the Guarani Aquifer is one of the largest reservoirs of freshwater worldwide, shared by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Even with both having cooperation agreements in place between the riparian states, there are still great difficulties with regard to the participation of local communities in transboundary water negotiations.

Article

Water Security  

Claudia Sadoff, David Grey, and Edoardo Borgomeo

Water security has emerged in the 21st century as a powerful construct to frame the water objectives and goals of human society and to support and guide local to global water policy and management. Water security can be described as the fundamental societal goal of water policy and management. This article reviews the concept of water security, explaining the differences between water security and other approaches used to conceptualize the water-related challenges facing society and ecosystems and describing some of the actions needed to achieve water security. Achieving water security requires addressing two fundamental challenges at all scales: enhancing water’s productive contributions to human and ecosystems’ well-being, livelihoods and development, and minimizing water’s destructive impacts on societies, economies, and ecosystems resulting, for example, from too much (flood), too little (drought) or poor quality (polluted) water.

Article

Communicating About Water Security Under a Changing Climate  

Anna Hurlimann and Sarah Bell

Some of the most significant impacts of climate change are likely to be felt in water resources management, but climate change is not the only uncertainty facing water managers and policymakers. The concept of water security has emerged to address social, economic, political, and environmental factors, as well as the physical determinants of water availability. There are significant challenges for communicating about water security under a changing climate. Water security shares many of the characteristics of climate change with regards to communication. It is a complex concept involving interactions between dynamic human and natural systems, requiring public deliberation and engagement to inform political debate and to facilitate behavioral and cultural change. Knowledge and values about water and climate change are communicated through material experiences as well as through language. Communication about water security and climate change takes many forms, which can be characterized as five key modes—policy, communication campaigns, media, cultures, and environments. More effective communication about climate change and water is needed across these different modes to support meaningful participation and deliberation in policy decisions by a wide range of stakeholders. Integrating climate change into communication campaigns about water security provides opportunities to challenge and reframe traditional formulations of the role of water in society and culture and how to manage water in human settlements, the economy, and the environment. The central challenge for communicating the impacts of climate change on water scarcity lies in the complex interactions between society, policy, technology, infrastructure, the economy, and the environment in modern water systems. Different modes of communication are useful to enable public and stakeholder engagement in understanding the issues and making decisions about how to ensure water security in a changing society and environment.

Article

Cochabamba’s 2000 Water War in Historical Perspective  

Sarah Hines

Water has long shaped economic, social, and political life in Bolivia’s highlands and valleys. As a result of dispossession under the Incas, the Spanish, and postcolonial governments, a small group of large landowners (hacendados) controlled most water sources in Bolivia’s most important agricultural valleys in Cochabamba by the end of the 19th century. Purchases of some of these estate (hacienda) sources and hydraulic infrastructure projects under military socialist governments in the late 1930s and early 1940s increased water access for independent smallholders (piqueros) and the growing urban population there, but water ownership and access remained highly unequal on the eve of Bolivia’s 1952 revolution. After seizing power in April 1952, the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario party passed an agrarian reform that provided for redistribution of hacienda land and water sources. Redistribution of previously hoarded water sources to estate tenants (colonos) transformed the region and the nation’s water tenure regime. But the reform excluded Cochabamba’s piqueros, landless peasants, and residents of the growing department capital. In the decades that followed, these groups worked to expand and protect their water access. City center residents protested shortages and rate hikes. Migrants to neighborhoods on the urban periphery built independent water supply and distribution systems. And peasants built and maintained irrigation infrastructure and fought efforts to drill deep wells that threatened shallow irrigation wells. These groups rallied behind the Misicuni Dam project, which promised to provide water for consumption, irrigation, and hydroelectricity, and faced off with the Inter-American Development Bank and Cochabamba’s municipal water company, SEMAPA. Contention and competition over water access and management, as well as residents’ autonomous management and contributions of labor to building water infrastructure, laid the basis for conflicts over water privatization in the 1990s. “Water wars” in Cochabamba in 2000 and in El Alto in 2005 forced the national government to cancel water administration contracts with transnational corporations and helped propel coca growers’ union leader Evo Morales to the presidency. Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, called a constituent assembly to refound the country in the interests of Indigenous people, workers, and the poor, fulfilling his promise to social movements. The resulting constitution enshrined a right to water access as well as Indigenous and peasant communities’ rights to manage water and other resources autonomously. At the urging of Morales’s government and water activists, the United Nations adopted a human right to water. While some Bolivian water activists supported these efforts, others have criticized the Morales government’s use of the concept of the human right to water to justify new rounds of water dispossession.

Article

Hydroeconomics  

Manuel Pulido-Velazquez and Amaury Tilmant

The management of water resources systems involves influencing and improving the interaction among three subsystems: natural (biophysical), economic, and legal-institutional frameworks. In this sense, hydroeconomic models have the advantage of analyzing water management problems through models that explicitly represent these interactions. The combination of economic, engineering, and environmental aspects of management provides better-informed results for decision making in the complex environment in which water management operates. Hydroeconomic models (HEMs) are spatially distributed management models of a river basin or system in which both water supply and demands are economically and hydrologically characterized. This definition is sometimes relaxed to refer in general to water resources management models that include the economic component. In HEMs, the management and allocation of water is either driven by the economic value of water or economically assessed, which contributes to policy analysis and reveals opportunities for better economic management. The traditional view of water demand as a fixed requirement to be satisfied is modified by a view of demand that adapts to the changes in the scarcity of water. The integration of economics in HEMs allows the identification of the best combination of water supply and demand management options within a consistent framework. As water scarcity increases worldwide, water managers will increasingly turn to tools that reveal solutions to increase efficiency in water use, fostering improved economic development through better-informed policy choices.

Article

International Water Law and Its Developing Role in Conflict and Cooperation Over Transboundary Water Resources  

Susanne Schmeier

International water law plays a key role in guiding states’ behavior over water resources they share. Substantive and procedural principles provide an ex ante framework based on which states can interact in a manner that prevents or mitigates potential conflicts and fosters cooperation and its benefits while supporting the sustainable use and management of these transboundary resources. Through the international water law regime, cooperation has largely prevailed over conflict in the world’s transboundary basins. Nonetheless, international water law—and thus also its role in conflict prevention and cooperation promotion—faces various challenges as populations and economies grow, the climate changes, and states seem to increasingly value short-term unilateral considerations over long-term multilateralism gains. This will challenge key principles, such as the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization and the principle of no significant harm, and their implementation in different basins, possibly triggering new disagreements between riparian states. It will therefore be important for international water law to remain adaptive to change and ensure the long-term cooperative and sustainable governance of water resources shared between states.

Article

Smart Cities and Water Infrastructure  

Katherine Lieberknecht

Water infrastructure is the system of physical (both built and environmental), social (e.g., governance), and technological elements that move water into, throughout, and out of human communities. It includes, but is not limited to, water supply infrastructure (e.g., pipe systems, water treatment facilities), drainage and flood infrastructure (e.g., storm sewers, green infrastructure systems, levees), and wastewater treatment infrastructure (e.g., pipe systems, wastewater treatment plants, reclaimed water facilities). Smart city approaches to water infrastructure emphasize integration of information and communication technologies with urban water infrastructure and services, usually with the goal of increasing efficiency and human well-being. Smart water meters, smart water grids, and other water-related information and communication technologies have the potential to improve overall infrastructure efficiency, to reduce water use, to match new water supplies with appropriate water uses, to innovate wastewater treatment, and to protect residents from floods and other water-related climate events. However, without stronger attention to issues of equity, social systems, governance, ecology, and place, a smart city approach to water infrastructure may achieve efficiencies but fail to generate broader socioecological values or to contribute toward climate adaptation.

Article

aqueducts  

Richard Allan Tomlinson and Nicholas Purcell

In a Mediterranean climate, correcting the accidents of rainfall distribution through the management of water sources transforms *agriculture by extending the growing season through the dry summer by means of *irrigation, allows agglomerations of population beyond the resources of local springs or wells, eases waterlogging through drainage in the wetter zones, and protects against floods caused by violent winter rainfall. The societies of the semi-arid peripheries had long depended on water strategies such as irrigation drawn from perennial rivers, or the qanat (a tunnel for tapping groundwater resources).Hydraulic engineering was therefore both useful and prestigious. It was quickly adopted by the nascent cities of the Greek world and their leaders: ground-level aqueducts bringing water from extra-mural springs into Greek cities were at least as old as the 6th century bce: notable late Archaic examples are at Athens, using clay piping (see athens, topography), and on *Samos, where the water was channelled by rock-hewn tunnel through the acropolis—a remarkable engineering feat on which Herodotus (3.

Article

How Trust and Risk Perception Affect Household Water Use  

Raymond Yu Wang and Xiaofeng Liu

Household water use accounts for an important portion of water consumption. Notably, different households may behave differently regarding how water is used in everyday life. Trust and risk perception are two significant psychological factors that influence water use behavior in households. Since trust and risk perception are malleable and subject to construction, they are useful for developing effective demand management strategies and water conservation policies. The concepts of trust and risk perception are multidimensional and interconnected. Risk perception varies across social groups and is often shaped by subjective feelings toward a variety of activities, events, and technologies. Risk perception is also mediated by trust, which involves a positive expectation of an individual, an organization, and/or an institution that derives from complex processes, characteristics, and competence. Likewise, different social groups’ trust in various entities involved in household water use is subject to the significant and far-reaching impact of risk perception. The complexity of the two notions poses challenges to the measurement and exploration of their effects on household water use. In many cases, risk perception and trust can influence people’s acceptance of water sources (e.g., tap water, bottled water, recycled water, and desalinated water) and their conservation behavior (e.g., installing water-saving technologies and reducing water consumption) in household water use. Trust can affect household water use indirectly through its influence on risk perception. Moreover, trust and risk perception in household water use are neither given nor fixed; rather, they are dynamically determined by external, internal, and informational factors. A coherent, stable, transparent, and fair social and institutional structure is conducive to building trust. However, trust and risk perception differ among groups with diverse household and/or individual demographic, economic, social, and cultural characteristics. Direct information from personal experiences and, more importantly, indirect information from one’s social network, as well as from mass media and social media, play an increasingly important role in the formation and evolution of trust and risk perception, bringing a profound impact on household water use in an era of information. Future directions lie in new dynamics of risk perception and trust in the era of information explosion, the coevolution mechanism of risk perception and trust in household water use, the nuanced impacts of different types of risks (e.g., controllable and uncontrollable) on household water use, and the interactive relations of risk perception and trust across geographical contexts.

Article

Customer Assistance Programs and Affordability Issues in Water Supply and Sanitation  

Joseph Cook

Concerns about water affordability have centered on access to networked services in low-income countries, but have grown in high-income countries as water, sewer, and stormwater tariffs, which fund replacement of aging infrastructure and management of demand, have risen. The political context includes a UN-recognized human right to water and a set of Sustainable Development Goals that explicitly reference affordable services in water, sanitation, and other sectors. Affordability has traditionally been measured as the ratio of combined water and sewer bills divided by total income or expenditures. Subjective decisions are then made about what constitutes an “affordable” ratio, and the fraction paying more than this is calculated. This measurement approach typically omits the coping costs associated with poor supply, notably the time costs of carrying water home. Three less commonly used approaches include calculating (a) the expenditure related to procuring a “lifeline” quantity of water as a percent of income or expenditures, (b) the amount of income left for other needs after water and sewer expenditures are subtracted, and (c) the number of hours of minimum wage work needed to purchase an essential quantity of water. Lowering water rates for all customers does not necessarily help those in need in low- and middle-income countries. This includes tariff structures that subsidize the price of water in the lowest block or tier (i.e., lifeline blocks) for all customers, not just the poor. Affordability programs that do not operate through tariffs can be characterized by (a) how they are administered and funded, (b) how they target the poor, and (c) how they deliver subsidies to the poor. Common types of delivery mechanisms include subsidizing public taps for unconnected households, subsidizing or financing the fees associated with obtaining a connection to the piped network, and subsidizing monthly bills for poor households. Means-tested consumption subsidies are most common in industrialized countries, whereas subsidizing public taps and connection fees are more common in low- and middle-income countries. A final challenge is directing subsidies to renters who are more likely to be poor and who do not have a direct relationship with a water utility because they pay for water through their landlord, either included as part of their rent or as a separate water payment. Based on data from the 2013 American Housing Survey, approximately 21% of all housing units in the United States are occupied by this type of “hard to reach” customer, although not all of them would be considered poor or eligible for an assistance program. This ratio is as high as 74% of all housing units in metropolitan areas like New York City. Because of data limitations, there are no similar estimates in low-income countries. Instead of sector-by-sector affordability policies, governments might do better to think about the entire package of services a poor person has a perceived right to consume. Direct income support, calculated to cover a package of basic services, could then be delivered to the poor, preserving their autonomy to make spending decisions and preserving the appropriate signals about resource scarcity.

Article

Decision-Making in a Water Crisis: Lessons From the Cape Town Drought for Urban Water Policy  

Johanna Brühl, Leonard le Roux, Martine Visser, and Gunnar Köhlin

The water crisis that gripped Cape Town over the 2016–2018 period gained global attention. For a brief period of time in early 2018, it looked as if the legislative capital of South Africa would become the first major city in the world to run out of water. The case of Cape Town has broad implications for how we think about water management in a rapidly urbanizing world. Cities in the global South, especially, where often under-capacitated urban utilities need to cope with rapid demographic changes, climate change, and numerous competing demands on their tight budgets, can learn from Cape Town’s experience. The case of Cape Town draws attention to the types of decisions policymakers and water utilities face in times of crisis. It illustrates how these decisions, while being unavoidable in the short term, are often sub-optimal in the long run. The Cape Town drought highlights the importance of infrastructure diversification, better groundwater management, and communication and information transparency to build trust with the public. It also shows what governance and institutional changes need to be made to ensure long-term water security and efficient water management. The implementation of all of these policies needs to address the increased variability of water supplies due to increasingly erratic rainfall and rapidly growing urban populations in many countries. This necessitates a long-term planning horizon.

Article

Safe Water Adaptability for Water Scarcity in Coastal Areas of Bangladesh  

Mohammad Golam Kibria and Md Anwarul Abedin

Water scarcity is a significant global concern affecting every continent. The problem of accessing safe water mainly occurs due to climate change, the increasing global population, and urbanization. The safe water crisis is more distressing in climate hot spots such as coastal areas, areas of low rainfall, and urban areas. Being a developing country, Bangladesh is experiencing the problem of water crisis in both coastal and urban areas. Safe water adaptability can be an integrative approach to mitigate water scarcity in these areas. Adaptability measures include monitoring surface and groundwater resources, using natural and artificial water storage, and providing technical training to the local community for safe water management, which can contribute to combat the safe water crisis across the globe. Safe water adaptability measures can be classified into four different dimensions (i.e., socioeconomic, institutional, physicochemical, and environmental) known as SIPE, which is based on some primary and secondary indicators. The SIPE approach measures the adaptability index by scoring the primary and secondary indicators and categorizes low to high adaptive community. Through the adaptability index, the capacity of the community and the gap between different levels of society can be measured, which can guide the review of existing policy and provide recommendations for a safe water adaptability action plan. This new approach will offer information and guidelines for the government, policymakers, and researchers to combat water scarcity problems. Although the proposed approach is applicable in the context of Bangladesh, this strategy can also be used for any parts of the globe by customizing the secondary indicators and considering the types of local problems to provide safe water for the community. The SIPE approach can be initiated at a micro level to become an integral part of national policies related to safe water access, especially for drinking and irrigation purposes.

Article

Global Climate Change and the Reallocation of Water  

Rhett B. Larson

Increased water variability is one of the most pressing challenges presented by global climate change. A warmer atmosphere will hold more water and will result in more frequent and more intense El Niño events. Domestic and international water rights regimes must adapt to the more extreme drought and flood cycles resulting from these phenomena. Laws that allocate rights to water, both at the domestic level between water users and at the international level between nations sharing transboundary water sources, are frequently rigid governance systems ill-suited to adapt to a changing climate. Often, water laws allocate a fixed quantity of water for a certain type of use. At the domestic level, such rights may be considered legally protected private property rights or guaranteed human rights. At the international level, such water allocation regimes may also be dictated by human rights, as well as concerns for national sovereignty. These legal considerations may ossify water governance and inhibit water managers’ abilities to alter water allocations in response to changing water supplies. To respond to water variability arising from climate change, such laws must be reformed or reinterpreted to enhance their adaptive capacity. Such adaptation should consider both intra-generational equity and inter-generational equity. One potential approach to reinterpreting such water rights regimes is a stronger emphasis on the public trust doctrine. In many nations, water is a public trust resource, owned by the state and held in trust for the benefit of all citizens. Rights to water under this doctrine are merely usufructuary—a right to make a limited use of a specified quantity of water subject to governmental approval. The recognition and enforcement of the fiduciary obligation of water governance institutions to equitably manage the resource, and characterization of water rights as usufructuary, could introduce needed adaptive capacity into domestic water allocation laws. The public trust doctrine has been influential even at the international level, and that influence could be enhanced by recognizing a comparable fiduciary obligation for inter-jurisdictional institutions governing international transboundary waters. Legal reforms to facilitate water markets may also introduce greater adaptive capacity into otherwise rigid water allocation regimes. Water markets are frequently inefficient for several reasons, including lack of clarity in water rights, externalities inherent in a resource that ignores political boundaries, high transaction costs arising from differing economic and cultural valuations of water, and limited competition when water utilities are frequently natural monopolies. Legal reforms that clarify property rights in water, specify the minimum quantity, quality, and affordability of water to meet basic human needs and environmental flows, and mandate participatory and transparent water pricing and contracting could allow greater flexibility in water allocations through more efficient and equitable water markets.

Article

Integrated Water Resource Management as an Organizing Concept  

Mohamed Ait-Kadi and Melvyn Kay

This is an immersive journey through different water management concepts. The conceptual attractiveness of concepts is not enough; they must be applicable in the real and fast-changing world. Thus, beyond the concepts, our long-standing challenge remains increasing water security. This is about stewardship of water resources for the greatest good of societies and the environment. It is a public responsibility requiring dynamic, adaptable, participatory, and balanced planning. It is all about coordination and sharing. Multi-sectoral approaches are needed to adequately address the threats and opportunities relating to water resources management in the context of climate change, rapid urbanization, and growing disparities. The processes involved are many and need consistency and long-term commitment to succeed. Climate change is closely related to the problems of water security, food security, energy security and environment sustainability. These interconnections are often ignored when policy-makers devise partial responses to individual problems. They call for broader public policy planning tools with the capacity to encourage legitimate public/collective clarification of the trade-offs and the assessment of the potential of multiple uses of water to facilitate development and growth. We need to avoid mental silos and to overcome the current piecemeal approach to solving the water problems. This requires a major shift in practice for organizations (governmental as well as donor organizations) accustomed to segregating water problems by subsectors. Our experience with integration tells us that (1) we need to invest in understanding the political economy of different sectors; (2) we need new institutional arrangements that function within increasing complexity, cutting across sectoral silos and sovereign boundaries; (3) top down approaches for resources management will not succeed without bottom-up efforts to help people improve their livelihoods and their capacity to adapt to increasing resource scarcity as well as to reduce unsustainable modes of production. Political will, as well as political skill, need visionary and strong leadership to bring opposing interests into balance to inform policy- making with scientific understanding, and to negotiate decisions that are socially accepted. Managing water effectively across a vast set of concerns requires equally vast coordination. Strong partnerships and knowledge creation and sharing are essential. Human civilization – we know- is a response to challenge. Certainly, water scarcity can be a source of conflict among competing users, particularly when combined with other factors of political or cultural tension. But it can also be an inducement to cooperation even in high tension areas. We believe that human civilization can find itself the resources to respond successfully to the many water challenges, and in the process make water a learning ground for building the expanded sense of community and sharing necessary to an increasingly interconnected world.

Article

Desalination Technology and Advancement  

P.S. Goh, A.F. Ismail, and N. Hilal

Water scarcity as an outcome of global population expansion, climate change, and industrialization calls for new and innovative technologies to provide sustainable solutions to address this alarming issue. Seawater and brackish water are abundantly available on earth for drinking water and industrial use, and desalination is a promising approach to resolving this global challenge. Recently, the considerable reduction in the cost of desalination has contributed to the growing capacity for global desalination. The desalination technologies that have been deployed worldwide for clean water production can be categorized into two main types: membrane-based and thermal-based. Technological advancement in this field has focused on the reduction of capital and operating cost, particularly the energy consumption of the systems. Seawater and brackish desalination technologies are promising solutions for water shortages.

Article

Water and Environmental Change in the US–Mexico Borderlands  

Sterling Evans

Aridity, a significant characteristic of the U.S.–Mexico borderlands, has affected water use patterns for different groups of people in this region for thousands of years. From indigenous groups to European invaders and colonizers to 20th- and 21st-century farmers, ranchers, and policy-makers in Mexico and the United States, controlling the area’s scarce water resources has been a vital concern for survival and economic success. Given that an international border divides the region, national-era relations between the United States and Mexico often have been marked by water issues and the development of water projects and policies. And on both sides of the border these projects and policies have caused environmental changes that merit attention. Much of that history revolves around agricultural development with the need to ensure steady sources of water for irrigation. But industry and urban areas have also been enormous consumers of scarce water resources in the region, issues that are discussed here.

Article

Agricultural Nitrogen and Phosphorus Pollution in Surface Waters  

Marianne Bechmann and Per Stålnacke

Nutrient pollution can have a negative impact on the aquatic environment, with loss of biodiversity, toxic algal blooms, and a deficiency in dissolved oxygen in surface waters. Agricultural production is one of the main contributors to these problems; this article provides an overview of and background for the main biogeochemical processes causing agricultural nutrient pollution of surface waters. It discusses the main features of the agricultural impact on nutrient loads to surface waters, focusing on nitrogen and phosphorus, and describes some of the main characteristics of agricultural management, including processes and pathways from soil to surface waters. An overview of mitigation measures to reduce pollution, retention in the landscape, and challenges regarding quantification of nutrient losses are also dealt with. Examples are presented from different spatial scales, from field and catchment to river basin scale.