Rational Waste: The Political-Economy of Desalination
20 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2014 Last revised: 23 Sep 2015
Date Written: December 7, 2014
This paper explores the economic and political dimensions of responding to water scarcity by increasing supply rather than reducing demand with examples from San Diego (US), Almeria (ES) and Riyadh (SA). Each case explains how leaders benefit by obscuring the costs of desalinated supplies. In San Diego, marginal costs are diffused among customers. In Almeria, they are absorbed by a government eager to reduce unsustainable groundwater use. Rulers in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, absorb costs to diffuse political unrest. Each case discusses reforms that could substitute for further desalination (greater regional trust, improved groundwater management and reduced irrigation, respectively) and complement existing desalination operations.
Keywords: drinking water, irrigation, energy, sustainability, political-economy, desalination
JEL Classification: D3, D7, H3, Q2, Q4, Q5
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation