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The End of Abundance - Economic solutions to water scarcity

Monday, 20 June 2011 15:13
by David Zetland

“The End of Abundance is a unique and exemplary book. It is a treasure chest of economic insights on water scarcity - a vitally important policy problem. Economics is all about choices that people make under conditions of scarcity. This book is highly readable and well-informed, provides many real-world examples, suggests solutions, and clearly explains key concepts to non-economists. Policymakers, managers, engineers and concerned citizens should read it.” Eran Binenbaum, Lecturer
School of Economics, University of Adelaide


"Water is the most precious commodity there is, and yet, most of us don't think much about it. It's availability in seemingly unlimited quantities, and at almost no cost, just by turning on the tap. But the age of water abundance is coming to an end, as David Zetland explains. Unlike many authors in this genre, Zetland does not try to terrify us with apocalyptic scenarios of water wars and mass starvation. Rather, writing in an engaging and informal style, he gives us a realistic assessment of the impending age of water scarcity and how we will need to change our ways to deal with it. Read this book - you'll never think the same way about water again!" John Quiggin, Australian Research Council Federation Fellow, University of Queensland

Description


In a past of abundance, we had clean water to meet our demands for showers, pools, farms and rivers. Our laws and customs did not need to regulate or ration demand. Over time, our demand has grown, and scarcity has replaced abundance. We don't have as much clean water as we want. We can respond to the end of abundance with old ideas or adopt new tools specifically designed to address water scarcity.

In this book, David Zetland describes the impact of scarcity on our many water uses, how the institutions of abundance fail in scarcity, and how economic ideas and tools can help us direct water to its highest and best use. Written for non-academic readers, The End of Abundance provides examples, insights and ideas to anyone interested in the management of our most precious resource.

Contents


Prologue
The beginning of the end
Part I: Personal water choices
1    Water from the tap]
2    Dirty water
3    The liquid lifestyle
4    Water for profit
5    Food and water
6    Water for power for water
Part II: Social water choices
7    Managers and politicians
8    Dams, pipes and pumps
9    Water and the environment
10  Weather and climate change
11  A human right to water
12  Water wars

Afterword: What you can do
Acknowledgements
Glossary
Notes to the text
Works cited
Index

Reviews


“A joy to read, this book has a pragmatic focus. It looks for solutions to one of the world's biggest challenges - water scarcity. Read the contents page and then decide if you need to read more.” Mike Young, Professor and Executive Director, The Environment Institute,  The University of Adelaide, Australia


“Disruptive and provocative, Zetland is the Ben Franklin of water. He hurls common sense against professional aristocrats to ensure our priceless liquid asset belongs, democratically, to 7 billion amateurs like you and me. “ James Workman, Author
Heart of Dryness


“Incentives matter. Zetland provides engaging narratives on the interaction of rules, institutions and people that communicate economics ideas far better than mass media and popular culture do.” Jay Wetmore, P.E., past President, American Society of Civil Engineers (MN)


“With economics at the centre of present-day international water diplomacy of national governments, this book could hardly be more timely. David Zetland touches upon the current issues of water resources management and puts them in an economic context that sheds light beyond the obvious and well-trodden pathways towards sustainable development.” Michael van der Valk, Hydrologist and Scientific Secretary
The Netherlands National Committee IHP-HWRP (UNESCO & WMO)


“Bold, provocative and refreshing - Zetland brings common sense to the water scarcity discussion.” Spreck Rosekrans, Senior Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund


“With his straight-forward writing style and mastery of the subject, Dr. Zetland delivers an accessible interpretation of how economics can (or should) impact water policy.” Richard Rauschmeier, Financial Examiner, Division of Ratepayer Advocates, Water Branch, California Public Utilities Commission


“Incentives matter. David Zetland explains why in his plain-speaking tutorial book on water. It informed me, and I thought I knew all this stuff already. If you want to understand how water should be managed, read The End of Abundance.”John F. Raffensperger, Senior Lecturer , Mnagement Science, University of Canterbury


“This book is impressive! Zetland has been able to capture the complexity of water without confusing the reader. This is a clear cogent "reveal" of a very difficult economic topic and yet simultaneously quite easy to enjoy as a book. “Robert O'Donnell, General Manager, AquaNexus


“Water is the most precious commodity there is, and yet, most of us don't think much about it. It's availability in seemingly unlimited quantities, and at almost no cost, just by turning on the tap. But the age of water abundance is coming to an end, as David Zetland explains. Unlike many authors in this genre, Zetland does not try to terrify us with apocalyptic scenarios of water wars and mass starvation. Rather, writing in an engaging and informal style, he gives us a realistic assessment of the impending age of water scarcity and how we will need to change our ways to deal with it. Read this book - you'll never think the same way about water again!” John Quiggin, Australian Research Council Federation Fellow, University of Queensland


“David Zetland has written a very informative, accessible and necessary book which explains the reality of water scarcity and the imperative of applying sound economics and local control to what was previously the exclusive preserve of engineers and politicians. In fact, it is a book that every water engineer and local politician should read to their benefit and that of their customers and citizens.”  G. Tracy Mehan, III, former Assistant Administrator for Water, US Environmental Protection Agency


“One of the biggest challenges faced by the water industry is simply poor public understanding of the issues we face, and a paucity of effective public education vehicles regarding water availability and consumption. If more people better understood the actual challenges and issues of global water resource management, we would have fewer problems. David Zetland's book should be a significant contribution towards meeting this need - by carefully assessing, through the lens of economic theory, the water choices and actions that we all participate in every day.” Steve Maxwell, Managing Director, TechKNOWLEDGEy Strategic Group, Author of The Future of Water, Publisher of the annual Water Market Review


“At a time of growing concerns about the availability of fresh water world wide, markets can play an important role in more effective allocation and management of this scarce and valuable resource. David Zetland's End of Abundance introduces economics into everyday decision making about water in an original and engaging way. The material is valuable not only for policy makers, but for each of us in better understanding the challenges and potential solutions to a growing water crisis.” Gary D. Libecap, Donald Bren Distinguished Professor, Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, Professor of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara, Pitt Professor, Economics Faculty, Cambridge University
Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research, Sherm and Marge Telleen Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Senior Fellow, Property and Environment Research Center


“A primer for talking about the fundamental elements of water management: Scarcity, Allocation, Value.” Paul W. Lander, PhD, LEED AP Lecturer, Geography & Sustainable Practices Program, University of Colorado, Chair, ASLA Water Conservation Network & AWWA WaterWiser Committees


“David Zetland understands and explains that efforts at sustainable water management are well-served by a no-nonsense economic analysis of overuse and pollution. Amid the commentary it is incentives that matter most.” Piet Klop, Senior Fellow
World Resources Institute


“Zetland writes with a lively, engaging style that conveys the urgency of thinking differently about water policies, and communicates both the efficiency and the humanity of market-based water policies and the innovations that such policies would encourage.” Lynne Kiesling, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Northwestern University and Knowledge Problem


“There are plenty of articles and books on water scarcity but few offer the insight and economical framework that are necessary to understand and address this scarcity. The End of Abundance is a significant contribution to the contemporary discourse on water management and is a must-read by anyone who cares about water or wants to learn about the issues. The book is refreshing in its candor and irrespective of whether you agree with all of its prescriptions, it is informative, factual and a delight to read.” Shahram Javey, Ph.D, Founder and CEO of Aquacue, Inc.


“A thought-provoking challenge to many current water management and pricing practices, Dr. Zetland's book will catalyze the debate we need to have on the economic value of water. Required reading for water leaders throughout the world.” Kevin P. Hunt, P.E., General Manager, Municipal Water District of Orange County


“The End of Abundance is an enthralling and witty account of a serious warning for all of us. Either we accept paying more for the water we consume, or else we let politicians do the daunting of job of allocating scarce water resources. Blogger and economist Zetland poses the right choices and suggests how to turn wishful thinking into viable outcomes.”  Alberto Garrido, Director and Professor, Research Centre for the Management of Agricultural and Environmental Risks, Department of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid


“The book is full of interesting new considerations, sharp writing and innovative thinking. Although I do not agree with everything David says, I appreciate his straightforwardness in the debate on sustainable water use. Well worth reading to get David's perspective on the water world.” Carlo C. Galli, Technical & Strategic Adviser, Water Resources, Nestlé


“I've been in water since 1993 and have looked hard for an economist who really understands water and its markets. David Zetland is the find, and I'm so thankful that he continues his blog and his writing. We MUST move to smart market based management of our water or we will continue to have shortages. We now have solid real models that show that markets work and politics - so far as water management - do not.” Ric Davidge, MPA, Chairman, AQUEOUS International, Inc.


“David helped me understand the importance of applying market-based pricing to address water scarcity. Not an easy task, but he does so convincingly, and places it in the context of today’s complex social and political realities. An engaging read for anyone interested in water.” Terry A. Clark, AICP, PMP, Senior Consultant
Cardno ENTRIX


“An economist with a sense of humor examines the dark clouds of California's pending hydrological apocalypse and finds a silver lining.” Lloyd Carter, President
California Save Our Streams Council

“The most thoroughly-researched treatise on water economics I've ever read. The End of Abundance sets a precedent and creates a water/road map for world water managers. David manages to maintain a wry sense of humor inside a sobering exploration of population growth, waste ignorance, unbridled water withdrawal, pure greed, entitlement and blatant disregard for the very substance that makes up 80 percent of our bodies. Demand exceeds supply in many parts of the world, and it will here also unless we embrace aguanomics to intelligently use of our most precious resource. I'm making this mandatory reading for my staff... they need to get this.” Michael Christian, CEO and President, American Hydroponics


“This is an engaging and readable book on a topic of growing importance. It shows how simple economics can help solve our problems of growing water scarcity. I recommend it strongly.”  Martin Cave, BP Centennial Professor
London School of Economics


“If David Zetland's End of Abundance is like his aguanomics blog - witty, intelligent, iconoclastic, unrepentant, and provocative - then it's going to be quite a ride.”Michael E. Campana, Professor, Hydrogeology and Water Resources, Oregon State University


“This is not a text for those seeking a rehash of the standard "water wars" catechism. Zetland outlines a fresh, creative approach to allocating a valuable resource in regions with competing demands. Importantly, his vision does not entail an expensive and sluggish command-and-control bureaucracy coddling whatever class of water users happen to enjoy momentary political favor. Protecting our environment, growing our food, and supplying our cities has always required the ingenuity of a free people. It is time we realized that in managing our water.” Philip Bowles, President, Bowles Farming Company


“Seldom in my experience has any politician ever stood up and said "There is a principle here, and that principle is worth losing an election over." The End of Abundance offers principles on how to balance supply and demand in the provision of water to the world and suggests that voters will accept them. Now all we need are some brave politicians.” Max Borchardt, Australia Editor, Global Water Intelligence


“The End of Abundance is a unique and exemplary book. It is a treasure chest of economic insights on water scarcity - a vitally important policy problem. Economics is all about choices that people make under conditions of scarcity. This book is highly readable and well-informed, provides many real-world examples, suggests solutions, and clearly explains key concepts to non-economists. Policymakers, managers, engineers and concerned citizens should read it.” Eran Binenbaum, Lecturer
School of Economics, University of Adelaide


“Zetland is never traditional, usually informative, and always provocative. The End of Abundance is no exception. It will definitely open your mind to innovative approaches to close the gap between water supply and demand.” Dan Bena, Senior Director of Sustainable Development, PepsiCo, Inc.


“The End of Abundance is a healthily provocative wake up-call. The book challenges the status quo and the most entrenched preconceived ideas to lead us to the realization that water managers facing scarcity can no longer solely focus on ensuring water supply and system management but must create the dynamic leading to the actual management of water itself. David suggests a profound shift of perspective that brings a new dimension to the water world: economics.” Laurent Auguste, President and CEO, Veolia Water Americas

Author


David Zetland is a senior water economist in the Department of Environmental Economics and Natural Resources at Wageningen University in the Netherlands where he is working on an EU-funded project, "Evaluating Economic Policy Instruments for Sustainable Water Management in Europe." David received his PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Davis in 2008. He was a S.v. Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow in Natural Resource Economics and Political Economy at UC Berkeley from 2008 to 2010. He blogs on water, economics and politics at aguanomics.com

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