Transforming the economics for water
“It's really important for this call to action to remain positive and see the immense amount of opportunities that different actors – in the private, public and civil space – can do together.”
This is an international perspective on water that is seldom reflected in political and economic discussions but of great significance. About half of the rainfall is dependent on functioning ecosystems, Johan Rockström explained, and oftentimes these ecosystems are located in other countries. The Amazon rainforest in Brazil is for example very important for rainfall over Argentina and Peru. And this has led to the realization that we all depend on the same water cycle and that water must be treated as a global common good.
The Commission on the Economics of Water is now working to identify barriers that prevent good water management and present solutions that will create the right incentives and innovations. The final report is due in 2024 but some initial ideas have been presented in the paper Turning the tide to inspire discussions. These include:
- Manage the global water cycle as a common global good.
- Adopt an outcomes-focused, mission-driven approach to water encompassing all the key roles it plays in human well-being.
- We must cease underpricing water.
- We must phase out some USD 700 billion of subsidies in agriculture and water each year, which tend to generate excessive water consumption and other environmentally damaging practices.
- We should establish Just Water Partnerships (JWPs) to enable investments in water access, resilience and sustainability in low- and middle-income countries, using approaches that contribute to both national development goals and the global common good.
- We must move ahead on the opportunities that can move the needle significantly in the coming decade.
- Underpinning all our efforts, we must reshape multilateral governance of water, which is currently fragmented and not fit for purpose.