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New approaches in water resource economics

Susanne M. Scheierling's picture
In many parts of the world, changing demand and supply patterns are contributing to an increasing physical scarcity and competition for water resources. Historically, new demands have been met by developing additional supplies—with the incremental cost of water remaining relatively constant over time due to the ready availability of water development project sites to meet growing demands. As the water economy moves from an expansionary to a mature phase, incremental costs are sharply rising, and interdependencies among users and uses are greatly increasing. With this move, the issues to be addressed by water economists tend to become more pressing, broader and more complex. While in the expansionary phase structural or engineering approaches to water management tend to be the main focus, in a maturing water economy nonstructural or institutional options for solving water problems receive increasing attention. In particular, resource allocation and valuation issues move to the forefront of economic inquiry.

Solar Irrigation Pumps: A New Way of Agriculture in Bangladesh

Mehrin Ahmed Mahbub's picture
Solar Irrigation Pumps in Bangladesh
Habibur shares a content smile as he tends to his rice field. Photo Credit: World Bank

On a recent field trip to northern Bangladesh, the smiles of Habibur, a young man working in a rice field under the scotching sun caught my attention. Habibur, 28, looked content amidst the wide green vista of fields.  
I learned that his life had not been easy. His father died when Habibur was around four years old, and the family had no land. His young widowed mother started working as a day laborer to raise her only child. Habibur began working too in his mid-teens. Mother and son struggled, but they managed to save some money.  They first bought a cow, and later Habibur leased land for rice cultivation. This is a common practice in rural Bangladesh, where the yield is divided between the farmer and the owner of the land.

What Vietnam can learn from Singapore about flood risk management

Linh X. Le's picture
Overview of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Singapore. Photo: Stefan/Flickr
As Vietnamese, we look very fondly to Singapore as a model for development in the region, especially fostered by a close relationship between Vietnamese leaders and the former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew—Singapore's founder and mastermind behind all its modern-day achievements. Singapore represents modernity and civilization, notably with limited natural resources. The city-state has proved an applicable model of development for cities in Vietnam to achieve not only competitiveness but also sustainability and inclusiveness.
I just returned to Vietnam after attending the World Bank’s first-ever Urban Week in Singapore, a series of events that brought together city leaders from across Asia and beyond to explore innovative approaches to urban planning and management.
A topic that cut across all these areas is flood risk management, which was featured extensively during the launch event of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities. I had the opportunity to learn more about the role of green mitigation infrastructure in integrated urban flood risk management, with lessons from Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, Senegal, and the Netherlands. In these countries, green structures such as retarding basins, permeable pavement, and rainwater storage or infiltration trench have complemented conventional structural measures to reduce flood risk in a cost-effective manner.

Can Singapore inspire Laos to build water-smart cities?

Henrike Brecht's picture
Photo: Songquan Deng/Flickr
Photo: Songquan Deng/Flickr
Singapore: the beautiful city state, famed for its lush gardens, splendid food, culturally diverse communities, and the cocktail Singapore Sling. I was there last week for the World Bank’s 2016 Urban Week. The event brought together leading city officials from all over the world and staff from international organizations. It was an excellent exchange on how to tackle urban planning in a sustainable and integrated way. One lesson that emerged from the gathering is that cities that are resilient to natural disasters are also more economically competitive. Singapore is itself a prime example of a city that has understood the importance of connecting disaster risk management, urban planning, and quality living.

Yemen: so critically short of water in war that children are dying fetching it

Farouk Al-Kamali's picture
Oleg Znamenskiy l

Before the ongoing war, Yemen was already among those countries facing the most serious water shortages: experts warned that its groundwater would be depleted by 2017. The war has greatly exacerbated the situation as, along with instability, the absence of government, and spread of armed conflicts, the arbitrary pumping of groundwater has increased while government utilities like water supplies have collapsed.

World Water Day: Transforming lives through better water and jobs

Jennifer J. Sara's picture

The largest sphere represents
all of Earth's water. The next
smallest sphere represents the world's
liquid fresh water. The smallest
one represents fresh surface water
in all the lakes and rivers on the planet.
Source: US Geological Survey

Water covers 70% of Earth’s surface, but if you live in Sana’a, Sao Paolo, California, or the many other areas where drought or chronic water scarcity has affected daily life, you know that abundance can be relative.

This image from the US Geological Survey shows that only a tiny fraction of Earth’s water is the accessible freshwater we need to live, grow food, sustain the environment, and power our cities and jobs.

Growing cities and populations and a changing climate are placing unprecedented pressures on water. According to the World Economic Forum, water crises are among the top risks to global economic growth. For at least 650 million people, even the water they are able to find is unsafe.

But this also offers an opportunity to provide safer water and better manage our water resources for a more resilient future.

This year, #worldwaterday focuses on the connection between water and jobs, and these connections primarily fall under two categories: productivity and sustainability.

In search of new ideas on public-private partnerships and water-loss reduction

Chris Shugart's picture
Chris Shugart is prize manager for the Dreampipe Challenge.
Credit: Asian Development Bank

Two questions worth debating are whether we might soon see a renaissance in public private partnerships (PPPs) in urban water supply and services, and whether PPPs are a good way for water companies in developing countries to reduce their staggering level of water losses.

These pressing issues demand our attention because an inordinately high level of water losses – up to 50 percent of water entering the distribution system – burdens water companies and customers in developing countries. More precisely, the culprit is “non-revenue water” (NRW): both physical losses (leakage and bursts) and commercial losses (poor customer databases, meter inaccuracies, and illegal connections).

The consensus is that there is no lack of technical solutions to the NRW problem. In the concluding sessions of a recent conference on water losses in Bangalore, India (February 1–3), organized by the International Water Association (IWA), experts spoke of the need for a “change in mind-set” if the problem of NRW is to be given sufficient attention by politicians and utility managers. True enough, but how exactly do you do that?

Niger and Lake Chad Basin countries take important strides towards building climate resilience, in line with Paris Agreement

Jennifer J. Sara's picture

Climate change imposes stark challenges in West and Central Africa, where droughts and floods are already frequent. Vast portions of the region’s populations are poor, dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and unable to prepare and respond adequately to extreme weather events. Weak monitoring and information systems, absence of proper infrastructure, and limited governance capacity render countries in the region unable to manage their climate risks, threatening food and energy security, economic development, ecosystem health, and overall regional stability.

Mitigating El Niño's impact on water security

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Every 2 to 7 years, the cyclical warming of Pacific Ocean waters triggers a global pattern of weather changes that can be felt across many different parts of the world. This phenomenon, known as "El Niño", translates into intense rainfall and floods in certain areas, and severe drought in others. Due to its impact on precipitation, El Niño can seriously undermine water security, decrease agricultural yields and threaten livestock–putting considerable pressure on the livelihoods of affected communities.
Ahead of World Water Day 2016, Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist Christoph Pusch explains how the World Bank helps client countries anticipate, respond to, and recover from El Niño-related shocks such as droughts or floods.