Governmental Options to Regulate Water Scarcity: What Can the Law Offer?
22 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2020
Date Written: April 26, 2020
Governments all around the world have to decide on how to combat the coming water crisis. In our contribution, we analyze what the law has to offer in controlling the problem of water scarcity and fostering sustainable irrigation, the equity of water allocation, and control over environmental impacts. The main question is:
“What are the governmental options to regulate water scarcity via legislation and how to become fit for the future?”
Based on the theoretical framework of environmental economics, we will describe four types of possible regulation to deal with water scarcity: command and control regulation, incentive-based regulation, the supply of information, and nudges or paternalistic regulation. All these types of regulations can be used to achieve the same goal: combating water scarcity. Subsequently, based on this typology, we will review several European and non-European examples to see how supra-national and national governments are undertaking action to alleviate water scarcity, by either reducing the need for freshwater or increasing the availability of freshwater. These examples can inspire other countries around the world who are considering new forms of regulation. The examples also show that those governments are already inspiring each other; new forms of European regulation on reusing wastewater for agricultural irrigation are inspired by examples all over the world, including the Australia, the United States and India. One clear conclusion when reviewing the strategies across several countries is that the problem remains insufficiently recognized, and is therefore not as high as it should be on the political and scientific agenda. Even worse, as we will highlight, some legal frameworks have the unintended effect of creating obstacles against innovative projects which can alleviate water scarcity, and therefore the current framework of regulation functions as an impediment to preventing or solving the issue. After presenting an overview of the theory and practice, and drawing conclusions, we conclude our contribution with an overview of the questions to be considered when formulating new regulations, and three recommendations to make the regulatory framework fit for the future.
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