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Cost-Effectiveness of Water Conservation Measures: A Multi-level Analysis with Policy Implications

  • Blanco-Gutierrez, Irene
  • Varela-Ortega, Consuelo
  • Flichman, Guillermo
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    Groundwater in Spain, as in other arid or semiarid countries worldwide, has been intensely used for the expansion of irrigated agriculture. This booming development has induced a remarkable socioeconomic development in many rural areas but has produced far-reaching environmental problems. In the Spanish Western La Mancha Aquifer, the excessive, and sometimes illegal, water abstraction for irrigation agriculture has resulted in the Aquifer’s overexploitation and has been responsible of the degradation of the associated wetlands “Tablas de Daimiel”, an internationally reputed, Ramsarnominated aquatic ecosystem. To undertake this analysis, a mathematical programming model has been developed to simulate farmers’ behaviour and their responses to different water policy scenarios. Specifically, the policy simulations selected are: alternative water pricing schemes (uniform volumetric and block-rate water tariffs), water use quota systems and water rights market. Results show that controlling illegal water mining is a necessary condition but it is not sufficient to recover the aquifer. Consequently, other measures will be necessary for an effective water management in this area. Among these, the block-rate water pricing scheme seems the most cost-effective system to reach the goal of aquifer sustainability but will entail important income losses in several farms. Therefore, we cannot conclude that a unique water conservation policy instrument will be the best overall solution for all types of holdings that will respond to efficiency as well as to equity considerations. It seems reasonable to make a combination of the tools proposed, even including additional measures that promote an environmental protection and develop sustainable agricultural systems.

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    Paper provided by European Association of Agricultural Economists in its series 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium with number 43846.

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    Date of creation: 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:ags:eaae08:43846
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    1. Varela-Ortega, Consuelo & M. Sumpsi, Jose & Garrido, Alberto & Blanco, Maria & Iglesias, Eva, 1998. "Water pricing policies, public decision making and farmers' response: implications for water policy," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 19(1-2), pages 193-202, September.
    2. Giordano, Mark & Villholth, Karen, 2007. "The agricultural groundwater revolution: opportunities and threats to development," IWMI Books, Reports H040039, International Water Management Institute.
    3. Varela-Ortega, C., 2007. "Policy-driven determinants of irrigation development and environmental sustainability: a case study in Spain," IWMI Books, Reports H040612, International Water Management Institute.
    4. Schuyt, Kirsten D., 2005. "Economic consequences of wetland degradation for local populations in Africa," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 177-190, April.
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