Water at any price? Issues and options in charging for irrigation water uri icon


  • An alternative approach to coping with shortage would focus on assigning volumes to specific uses - and effectively rationing water where demand exceeds supply - has a number of potential benefits including simplicity, transparency and the potential to tailor allocations specifically to hydrological situations. Copyright (C) 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  • However, in many developing countries, the facilities required for measured and controlled delivery, which are both essential for volume-related charges, are not in place and their introduction would require a massive investment in physical, legal and administrative infrastructure.
  • Moreover, while water supplied is a proper measure of service in domestic and industrial uses, in irrigation, and especially as the water resource itself becomes constrained, water consumption is the appropriate measure for water accounting, and this is exceptionally difficult to define.
  • Shortage of water and inadequate funding for maintenance of irrigation works have focused attention on the potential for water charges to generate financial resources, and reduce demand for water through volume-based charges. Examples from other utilities, and from the domestic/industrial sectors of water supply, suggest the approach could be effective.
  • To be effective in curtailing demand, the price of water must be significant, but the price structures and levels that are within the politically feasible and acceptable range are usually too low to have a real impact on demand, much less to actually bring supply and demand into balance. Similarly, the present cost of water is too low to induce significant technical innovation or investments that could reduce consumption.

publication date

  • 2001
  • 2001