David Zetland just published Living with Water Scarcity. Ed Dolan at Economonitors reviews the book…(the review is re-posted with permission of the author).
Living with Water Scarcity: A Refreshing Take on a Hot-Button Issue
by Ed Dolan (is an economist and educator with a Ph.D. from Yale University. Since 2001, he has taught at several universities in Europe, including Central European University in Budapest, the University of Economics in Prague, and the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga. During breaks in his teaching career, he worked in Washington, D.C. as an economist for the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and as a regulatory analyst for the Interstate Commerce Commission)
Review of David Zetland, Living with Water Scarcity, Aguanomics Press, 2014
Whether it’s cowboys facing off over a muddy water hole in an old Western, or the dirty looks you get if you fill your supermarket basket with bottled water, no one ever denied that people feel strongly about water. David Zetland’s new book, Living with Water Scarcity, explores hot-button water issues in a refreshingly pragmatic way. There are no “-isms,” no blanket condemnations of government or capital. Zetland does care about water—he cares passionately—but he keeps his rhetoric cool while he explains how government water managers have too often failed to do their job while markets, which have worked where they have been tried, need to be used more widely.
The right price
Zetland begins with a simple distinction between scarcity and shortage. Water is scarce in the sense that different people have different purposes for it—drinking, growing crops, sustaining flows to streams and wetlands—but there is not enough to meet all of them all in full. Water is not unique in that regard. We spend our time and money in pursuit of scarce goods every day. We would always like to have more time and money, but we live with what we have.
Shortage is different. A shortage means you can’t get the water you want no matter how much time and money you have. A shortage is a sign of failure to manage scarcity.