The Evolution of Water Resource Planning and Decision Making

The Evolution of Water Resource Planning and Decision Making

Edited by Clifford S. Russell and Duane D. Baumann

This broad review of the development of US water resource policy analysis and practice offers perspectives from several disciplines: law, economics, engineering, ecology and political science. The historical context provided goes back to the early 19th century, but the book concentrates on the past 60 years. A key feature is a discussion of the difficulty that has generally been encountered in bringing the disciplines of economics and ecology into collaboration in the water resource context.

Chapter 5: On the Collaboration of Ecologists and Economists

Clifford S. Russell and Mark Sagoff

Subjects: environment, water


Clifford S. Russell and Mark Sagoff INTRODUCTION Chapters 3 and 4 of this book, on economic methods and ecological approaches to understanding the aquatic environment, underscore the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in the analysis of water policies and projects. Economists believe their methods of attaching money values to prospective changes in water quantity and quality are central to making inferences about whether those changes are worth pursuing – worth at least what they will cost. But the changes themselves must be inferred by another sort of expert on the basis of the elements of the policy or the structure of the project. This is true whether what is being examined involves adding a new structure or removing an old one; imposing a new restriction on firms, farms or consumers, or relaxing an old one; causing predictable damage or attempting to mitigate earlier damage. Seen in this light, there seems to be a natural fit between economics and aquatic science and engineering (or, more broadly, economics and environmental science). This chapter deals with one part of this apparent fit, a part that does not often live up to expectations – the one between economists and ecologists.1 The history of attempts at collaboration between economists and ecologists is far from a happy or an encouraging one, with the efforts often ending in failure or frustration. Even when attempts have been comparatively successful, the costs in time, money and psychic energy are so large and the results apparently so dependent on contingent factors, such as...

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