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A common-pool resource approach for water quality management: An Australian case study


  • Sarker, Ashutosh
  • Ross, Helen
  • Shrestha, Krishna K.


Water is perhaps one of the most studied types of common-pool resource (CPR) goods. Its quality, however, has not been discussed as much in the CPR literature as its quantity. We examine the significance of studying water quality from a CPR perspective, and then analyze implications for the formulation of institutional arrangements to improve water quality. We illustrate with a case study in South East Queensland, Australia. This involves a rural catchment (watershed) that contributes high sediment and some nutrient loads to the Brisbane River, where it affects urban water quality and visual amenity, water treatment costs, and dredging costs at the port. The pollutants then threaten marine water quality and habitat values for threatened species in Moreton Bay, a marine protected area. We analyze the potential for a CPR understanding to enhance the design and financing of a water quality management regime. Rather than seeking to supplant conceptualizations of externalities as a basis for design of policy instruments, we propose arrangements that combine the CPR and externality concepts to offer a powerful logic and financial basis for collective management. Market-based instruments could facilitate downstream populations to help pay for catchment restoration in return for enjoyment of improved water quality resulting from strengthened ecosystem services, while associated non-market-based instruments could help all parties understand and expand their roles under a common-pool management regime. We argue that recognition of CPR attributes provides a logic for cooperation and co-investment between stakeholders who are in a position to affect, or are affected by, water quality in different parts of a large river system.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarker, Ashutosh & Ross, Helen & Shrestha, Krishna K., 2008. "A common-pool resource approach for water quality management: An Australian case study," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1-2), pages 461-471, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:68:y:2008:i:1-2:p:461-471

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stavins, Robert, 2003. "Market-Based Environmental Policies: What Can We Learn from U.S. Experience and Related Research?," Working Paper Series rwp03-031, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. Stavins, Robert N., 2003. "Experience with market-based environmental policy instruments," Handbook of Environmental Economics,in: K. G. Mäler & J. R. Vincent (ed.), Handbook of Environmental Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 9, pages 355-435 Elsevier.
    3. Edella Schlager & William Blomquist & Shui Yan Tang, 1994. "Mobile Flows, Storage, and Self-Organized Institutions for Governing Common-Pool Resources," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 70(3), pages 294-317.
    4. Sarker, Ashutosh & Itoh, Tadao, 2001. "Design principles in long-enduring institutions of Japanese irrigation common-pool resources," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 89-102, June.
    5. Quiggin, John C., 2001. "Environmental economics and the Murray-Darling river system," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 45(1), March.
    6. Marshall, Graham R. & Wall, Lisa M. & Jones, Randall E., 1996. "Economics of Integrated Catchment Management," Review of Marketing and Agricultural Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 64(02), August.
    7. Helle Ravnborg & María Guerrero, 1999. "Collective action in watershed management -- experiences from the Andean hillsides," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 16(3), pages 257-266, September.
    8. Nathalie Steins & Victoria Edwards, 1999. "Platforms for collective action in multiple-use common-pool resources," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 16(3), pages 241-255, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Paragahawewa, Upananda H. & Doole, Graeme J. & Bower, Bob, 2015. "Is dilution the solution for water pollution? An economic analysis," 2015 Conference (59th), February 10-13, 2015, Rotorua, New Zealand 202984, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    2. repec:eee:ecoser:v:23:y:2017:i:c:p:71-81 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Sarker, Ashutosh & Ikeda, Toru & Abe, Takaki & Inoue, Ken, 2015. "Design principles for managing coastal fisheries commons in present-day Japan," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 32-38.
    4. Li, X.M. & Lu, H.W. & Li, J. & Du, P. & Xu, M. & He, L., 2015. "A modified fuzzy credibility constrained programming approach for agricultural water resources management—A case study in Urumqi, China," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 79-89.
    5. Brett Bryan & John Kandulu, 2011. "Designing a Policy Mix and Sequence for Mitigating Agricultural Non-Point Source Pollution in a Water Supply Catchment," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 25(3), pages 875-892, February.
    6. Skurray, James H., 2015. "The scope for collective action in a large groundwater basin: An institutional analysis of aquifer governance in Western Australia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 128-140.
    7. Stallman, Heidi R., 2011. "Ecosystem services in agriculture: Determining suitability for provision by collective management," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 131-139.
    8. repec:eee:ecoser:v:14:y:2015:i:c:p:98-112 is not listed on IDEAS


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