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New directions in the economics of agricultural water conservation

Susanne M. Scheierling's picture

A challenging area in agricultural water management is the assessment of policy and investment options in irrigated agriculture for conserving water and adapting to increasing water scarcity, in particular when the linkages to groundwater resources and their management are to be considered and incorporated. 

However, this is an increasingly important area of research for a number of reasons.  First, irrigated agriculture accounts for about 70% of global freshwater withdrawals, and is a major contributing factor to the water scarcity situation in many countries.  Second, with almost a quarter of freshwater withdrawals for irrigated agriculture being made up of groundwater supplies—corresponding to 70% of total groundwater withdrawals—, agricultural water use is also a major contributing factor to aquifer overexploitation.  And, third, surface water and groundwater are closely linked in most parts of the world, with groundwater discharge contributing to the base flow of streams and surface water contributing to groundwater recharge, and these interactions are intensified by human action, in particular water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture.  Even in cases where irrigated agriculture depends mostly on surface water, groundwater impacts therefore need to be accounted for when assessing water conservation efforts (and vice versa).

Eight things we know about water and electricity utilities in Africa

Luis Andres's picture

Infrastructure is one of the most important forces driving economic growth and poverty reduction.Yet Africa’s infrastructure networks lag increasingly behind those of other developing countries in providing telecom, electricity, and water supply and sanitation services. Two-thirds of the population in the region lacks access to electricity and five out of six people don't have access to piped water. The people and industries that do have services pay twice as much as those outside Africa, further reducing regional competitiveness and growth. As cities continue to flood with migrants looking for better economic opportunities, power and water utilities are being challenged to improve the services offered to existing and new users. Given scarce resources and competing development priorities, it is essential to establish ways of using resources (and knowledge!) more effectively. 

How we help countries track and report on the Sustainable Development Goals on water, sanitation and hygiene

Ana María Oviedo's picture
Enumerators in Ecuador collecting water sample
for water quality test.
Credit: World Bank team in Ecuador

Over the last few years, the international community has been busy establishing new indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which officially replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for the period 2015-2030. SDG #6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all, seeks to reduce the incidence of malnutrition, communicable diseases, and inequities that are directly related to lack of access to improved sources of drinking water (affecting 663 million people worldwide) and sanitation (which 2.4 billion people still lack). This new goal implies a commitment by countries to monitor and report on their progress, similarly to what was done for the MDGs, but with much more detail.
 
From MDGs to SDGs: What’s New for Water and Sanitation?
 
Under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), countries were requested to report the coverage of water and sanitation, distinguishing between “improved” and “unimproved” coverage. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), established specific indicators for each, using definitions that could be captured with information from standard household surveys, which typically rely on self-reported questions on access to services collected from a nationally representative sample of households.

How can cities reduce water-energy nexus pressures?

Robert C. Brears's picture
Credit: Water & Sanitation Program 

Cities over the past century have become the driving force of the global economy. Accounting for over half the world’s population and generating around 80% of global GDP, cities provide numerous opportunities for development and growth. Cities however bring about risks and challenges to people and the environment. By 2050, demand for water is projected to increase by 55% mainly due to increased demand from urban populations. At the same time demand for energy in providing water and wastewater treatment services will increase.

Delivering water and sanitation services in Niger: challenges and results

Taibou Adamou Maiga's picture

Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries (44.5% of poverty incidence in 2014). The country faces a number of challenges in meeting the national (PROSEHA, the National Program for sustainable development) and global targets to increase access to sanitation and potable water, particularly in rural areas where the access to water is 44.2% and 7% for sanitation (2015 Ministry of Water and Sanitation data).

Overcoming these challenges while satisfying increasing demands for better or expanded service, the government began investigating options that bring in the know-how of the private sector. This has led to a growing domestic private sector provision of services in Niger.

What is non-revenue water? How can we reduce it for better water service?

Bill Kingdom's picture
A water tap in Rwanda.
Photo credit: A'Melody Lee / World Bank

Also available in 中文

In developing countries, roughly 45 million cubic meters of water are lost daily with an economic value of over US$3 billion per year.

A World Bank study puts the global estimate of physical water losses at 32 billion cubic meters each year, half of which occurs in developing countries. Water utilities suffer from the huge financial costs of treating and pumping water only to see it leak back into the ground, and the lost revenues from water that could have otherwise been sold. If the water losses in developing countries could be halved, the saved water would be enough to supply around 90 million people.

We refer to it as non-revenue water (NRW), or water that is pumped and then lost or unaccounted for.

The need to manage NRW better and protect precious water resources has become increasingly important. Non-revenue water (NRW) management allows utilities to expand and improve service, enhance financial performance, make cities more attractive, increase climate resilience and reduce energy consumption.

How can water utilities provide reliable water to poor people in African cities?

Chris Heymans's picture
Urban Africa: Rapidly growing and densifying.
Photo Credit: Kathy Eales / World Bank

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 targets “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”. However, in Africa’s fast-growing cities, just accessing water is a daily struggle for many poor families. While Africa’s urban population is expected to triple by 2050, the proportion of people with improved water supply has barely grown since 1990, and the share of those with water piped to their premises has declined from 43 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 2015. Poor families bear the brunt of these inadequacies through poor health, the long time required to collect water, and higher costs when purchasing from on-sellers’.

However, some cities stand out as exceptions. What can we learn from cities and utilities that successfully provide reliable and safe water to almost all of their inhabitants? A study I led recently, Providing Water to Poor People in African Cities Effectively: Lessons from Utility Reforms, analyzed how the water utilities in Kampala, Nyeri, Dakar, Ouagadougou and Durban achieved stand-out performance, and how this made a difference for the poor people in these cities.

Achieving universal access to water and sanitation by 2030 – how can blended finance help?

Joel Kolker's picture
Today, 2.4 billion people still live without access to improved sanitation; about one billion people defecate in the open; and more than 640,000 people lack improved drinking water sources.
 
With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals on water and sanitation (SDG 6), countries of the world committed themselves to change this situation by achieving universal access to safe water and sanitation while addressing issues of water quality and scarcity to balance the needs of households, agriculture, industry, energy, and the environment over the next 15 years.
 
A substantial increase in sector financing will be necessary to achieve SDG 6. Recent estimates by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) indicate that the present value of the additional investment in the water and sanitation sector alone needed through 2030 will exceed US$1.7 trillion. Existing funding falls far short of this amount; countries may have to increase their water and sanitation investments by up to four times in order to meet the SDGs.
The World Bank at World Water Week 2016

At present, most water sector actors in developing countries rely on government lending and concessional financing from national, bilateral or multilateral development banks (MDBs) to mobilize financing for capital investment. These financial sources alone will not be sufficient to finance investments on the scale that is called for by the SDGs. It is therefore essential to mobilize up-front financing from commercial sources as well.

  National governments and donors must use their funds in a catalytic manner, as part of broader financing strategies that mobilize funding from sector efficiency gains, tariffs, domestic taxes, and transfers to crowd in domestic commercial finance. If they are able to do so, countries will be much more likely to access the resources they need to improve and expand the infrastructure needed to deliver and sustain universal coverage of water and sanitation services and achieve SDG 6.

What does a circular economy of water mean to Latin America? Join the discussion in Stockholm

Gustavo Saltiel's picture
Also available in: Español

Coauthored by Victor Arroyo, Principal Executive Water and Sanitation at CAF, and German Sturzenegger, Water and Sanitation Specialist at IDB

Also available in: Spanish

Two years ago, during the 2014 SIWI World Water Week, key international experts discussed the need for a paradigm shift in water consumption: the move from a linear to a circular economy—an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.

Wastewater Reuse in the Circular Economy

With global demand for water predicted to exceed viable resources by 40 percent in 2030, it is necessary to rethink our traditional approaches to water consumption and adopt new approaches that allow for this vital resource to be reused as much as possible, and achieve efficient standards for water management.

The World Bank at World Water Week 2016

These previous SIWI World Water Week discussions allowed raising awareness about the adoption of a circular economy as a viable sustainable development strategy; its particular relevance to the water sector, in view of the fundamental and cross-cutting role it has across all sectors; and the combination of regulations and incentives, and strong multi-stakeholder approach, required to allow the market to transform. The need for a “paradigm shift” in the water sector—moving away from traditional linear water consumption patterns of “take-make-dispose” and heading towards a circular economy approach where wastewater is no longer seen as waste or an environmental hazard, but rather as a valuable resource that contributes to overcome water stress and imbalances between supply and demand —is particularly relevant to the Latin American region, and the 2016 SIWI World Water Week event of this year will take this conversation forward.

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