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Investing in Information, Knowledge and Monitoring
 
James Winpenny[1]

 
Overview and abstract
Information about water is as essential to life as the water itself.  It aids decision-making by converting uncertainty into risk, which is more manageable. It reduces ignorance and uncertainty, which are important ingredients of market failures. It enables a better choice of infrastructure to be made. It is also the basis of water democracy, giving citizens and users more control over their lives and making public institutions more accountable for their actions.
 
Despite this, this paper will argue that not enough information is produced. From a social viewpoint, insufficient resources are invested in the supply and dissemination of water information. From an economic perspective, water information is under-supplied, due essentially to its characteristic as a public good. This points to the important role of public agencies (and philanthropists) in rectifying this market failure. Globally, there is an important role for international action to supply public information goods and specifically to overcome the problem of ‘underfunded regionalism’.
 
The generation of information for water management is an economic activity, and thus cannot be random or undirected. Economic principles can be used to help orient research towards socially valuable aims.
 
The benefits of providing greater information are illustrated in five areas:
 
- Information for water resource planning and use, for which there is evidence of a worldwide decline. The benefits of this for poor farmers are illustrated by the Mali Agrometeorological Project. Suggestions are made for improvements in data collection and the development of new indicators.
 
- In the realm of water governance, better information is needed for Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and for monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Better data can be incorporated into cost-benefit studies to make the case for better sanitation.
 
- For the citizen: information enables public access to vital information for public health and safety, such as flooding. It also equips water users with data to empower them in dealings with authorities and service providers.
 
- For improved management of water services, better data is needed to monitor the state and performance of national water sectors and services and to create a level playing field between public and private operators.
 
- Turning to business and trade, further research on virtual water and water footprints would have an important influence on international trade policy, while the development of water sustainability indicators would assist private businesses and civil society watchdogs.
 
Finally, reference is made to the new System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water (SEEAW), promoted by UN agencies, which will provide a comprehensive framework for the inclusion of water information into national income accounts. The SEEAW will enable the state of water to be quantified and fed into conventional measures of national income and economic performance – the first and indispensable step to gaining the serious attention of national policy makers.
 
Table of Contents of the study:
Overview and abstract (page 1)
1. The production, consumption, and benefits of information (page 2)
2. Information for water-resource planning and use (page 4)
3. Information for water governance (page 6)
4. Information for the citizen (page 8)
5. Information for the management of water services (page 9)
6. Information for business and trade (page 11)
7. A comprehensive national accounting framework for water (page 13)
8. Conclusion (page 14)
References (page 16)
 
 
For the full study:
 


[1] The author is a Director of Wychwood Economic Consulting Ltd, UK.

 

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