Dr. Francois Molle is a Senior Researcher with L’Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Montpellier, France. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeremy Berkoff is a Freelance Consultant specializing in Agricultural Economics.
Cities vs. agriculture: A review of intersectoral water re-allocation
Article first published online: 7 APR 2009
© 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 United Nations
Natural Resources Forum
Special Issue: Integrated Water Resources Management in Water-Stressed Countries
Volume 33, Issue 1, pages 6–18, February 2009
How to Cite
Molle, F. and Berkoff, J. (2009), Cities vs. agriculture: A review of intersectoral water re-allocation. Natural Resources Forum, 33: 6–18. doi: 10.1111/j.1477-8947.2009.01204.x
- Issue published online: 7 APR 2009
- Article first published online: 7 APR 2009
- Water resources;
- Sectoral competition;
- Water supply;
- Water markets
Water demand management, or making better use of the water we have — as opposed to augmenting supply — is increasingly proposed as a way of mitigating water-scarcity problems. Moving water away from agriculture to uses with higher economic value is one of the main measures widely seen as desirable. Sectoral “allocation stress” is seen as resulting from the disproportionate share, and inefficient use of water in the agricultural sector. This apparent misallocation is often attributed to the failure of government to allocate water rationally.
This paper revisits this commonly-accepted wisdom and examines the nature of urban water scarcity, showing the importance of economic and political factors, shaped by incentives to decision-makers, and sometimes compounded by climatic conditions. It shows that cities’ growth is not generally constrained by competition with agriculture. In general, rather than using a narrow financial criterion, cities select options that go along the “path of least resistance,” whereby economic, social and political costs are considered in conjunction. The question of allocation stress is thus reframed into an inquiry of how transfers effectively occur and can be made more effective.