Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. My name is Roger Bate, and I'm a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a Director of an NGO, Africa Fighting Malaria. And as that name implies, I spend most of my time analysing disease in developing countries--much of which is related to water quality, in one way or another. But I did my PhD research on water markets over a decade ago in Southern Africa--and I maintain an interest in how water is used--and more often misused.
I'm going to discuss some of the water markets I've come across in my travels and research, but I'll start by mentioning the drought in Australia (which has broken recently, but rainfall levels over the past five years are way down on historic averages). I believe this drought provides a foretaste of things to come for many of us. Either because of possible climate change, and more certainly because of mismanagement of water resources, water shortages are set to increase. Water quantity and water quality are distinct issues, but are often interlinked--shortages of volume usually leading to lowering of quality.
Let's start by simplifying the problem. There is enough water in every country on earth for people and the ecosystems in which they live, but water is being used inefficiently almost everywhere, and at current rates it will run so low as to cause major problems. Improving allocations of water, especially the allocation of water for agricultural use is singularly the most important, but often overlooked, intervention required. About 70% of the world's consumptive water use is in agriculture, so improving use in farming is vital.
Roger Bate is a resident fellow at AEI.