New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
On a blue planet, a book about water ‘scarcity’ sounds like pursuing an oxymoron. Scarcity is usually a description of the gap between expectations and reality at a given point in time. The former are subjective and the latter is inﬂuenced by technology, and institutions (incentive structures). Water scarcity is a resource management issue at the interface between natural environment and social institutions. There are divergent viewpoints as to the causes of water scarcity and how best to deal with it: ranging from arguments that suggest population to be the main problem to those that suggest elaborate engineering projects as solutions (for example, to transfer water from one river basin to another). In this book, I would like to argue that scarcity is seldom a result of lack of water resources but is often found where the necessary institutions are weak or missing. In such an environment, scarcity is constructed and used as a hostage to inﬂuence policy agenda and investment priorities. Scarcity exacerbates inequality in access to water, itself a manifestation of wider economic inequality. Therefore, to develop policy interventions to tackle scarcity, it is necessary to understand what institutions exist and how these shape and inﬂuence water access and allocation mechanisms, and how accountable such institutions are to diﬀerent groups of stakeholders. At the level of individual citizens and households, there is a need to examine what role entitlements and property rights can play in enabling them to cope with scarcity in the short...