Valuing Water Amidst Climate Change

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The United Nations report, Valuing Water, tackled the ‘true’ value of water to help us make better decisions on protecting, sharing, and using it.

But how can we measure the value of water measured and who determines it, and to whom is it worth? 

While these questions may be simplistic, the answers to them are quite the opposite. The bottom line is that there is no one ‘true’ value of water.

Instead, its value is determined or measured in a myriad of ways and based on factors like where water is located, its level of abundance or scarcity, its quality, and availability, and its purpose, and the benefits it produces.

According to an economic theory, the value of a good is determined by its scarcity. When there is unlimited need, but resources are limited, one can feel the scarcity and an appreciation of its value.

Today over 2 billion people live with water scarcity; around 3.4 billion or 45% of the global population do not have access to managed sanitation facilities. Independent assessments project that by 2030, the global water deficit would reach 40%. Global challenges like climate change will further worsen the situation.

Besides its economic value, water also has a cultural worth.

In New Zealand, they passed the Te Awa Tupua Act of 2017 to recognise the Whanganui River as “an indivisible and living whole from the mountains to the sea”.

How then should we value water? The report groups the valuation of water into five interrelated perspectives:

  1. Valuing water sources in situ water resources and ecosystems;
  2. Valuing water infrastructure for water storage, use, reuse or supply augmentation;
  3. Valuing water services, mainly drinking water, sanitation and related human health aspects;
  4. Valuing water as an input to production and socio-economic activity, such as food and agriculture, energy and industry, business and employment; and
  5. Sociocultural values of water including recreational, cultural and spiritual attributes.

The various methodologies and approaches to valuing water are complimented with experiences from different global regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Pan-European region, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, The Arab region that presented opportunities to reconcile the value of water through a more integrated and holistic approach to governance, financing, and methods to address knowledge, research, and capacity needs.

To read the entire UN report, click the link below:

Resource Citation:

United Nations, The United Nations World Water Development Report 2021: Valuing Water. UNESCO, Paris

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