Living in a Post-Water World

21 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2019

See all articles by David Zetland

David Zetland

Leiden University - Leiden University College

Date Written: August 9, 2019


Multiple factors are increasing fresh water scarcity, and few societies are prepared to cope. Although some assume that solutions will come from technology, profit motives or better planning, I argue that outdated and mismatched institutions are making scarcity worse and blocking efforts to manage water according to its economic and social uses. In this paper, I use a simple framework to explain how water's economic and collective value should be managed, explain how mismatched incentives can destroy value, and use examples to show how current quality of life will fall as scarcity worsens in the presence of inappropriate institutions. This combination of theory and speculative examples should help readers think about how we might adapt to increasing water scarcity – or not.

Keywords: climate change, food security, virtual water, agricultural trade

JEL Classification: F51, H42, Q17, Q25

Suggested Citation

Zetland, David, Living in a Post-Water World (August 9, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

David Zetland (Contact Author)

Leiden University - Leiden University College ( email )

P.O. Box 13228
Den Haag, 2501EE

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