by David Zetland (originally published at Aguanomics)
In developing countries which there is a constant struggle between farmers and utilities over water allocation, most of implemented policies are based on punishment. For example, quotas are assigned to each farmer and if he goes over his quota he will face a sort of a punishment. With this setup, if famers find a way not to be caught they will be the winner and they can take water as much as they want. Nobody makes money by saving water and the one acting responsibly in their consumption will be victims; because the others are being awarded by screwing the system. I strongly believe unless we find a mechanism in which people make money by saving water, no other effort matters.
In my last trip to India, I learned of such a mechanism to protect groundwater. Tushaar Shah (of IWMI-TATA and a well-known figure in the energy and water sector of India) has started a pilot in Gujarat called SPaRC. He is giving farmers solar power system to operate their pumps. The farmer can sell his extra power to the grid and make money. Nominal power of the solar system is a bit higher than the nominal power of the pump. Also, any farmer by subscribing to the program loses his connection to the grid so that he can only evacuate solar power into the grid and not get any electricity from the grid. A farmer can either operate his pump or sell the power to grid; as he expected now farmers participating in the program are voluntarily practicing water saving methods because the solar power they sell to the grid for money is also power NOT used to pump water.