The potential of water markets to allocate water between industry, agriculture, and public water utilities as an adaptation mechanism to climate change

Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang. 2017;22(2):325-347. doi: 10.1007/s11027-015-9662-z. Epub 2015 Jun 11.


One of the climate change scenarios that have been developed for the Netherlands predicts hotter and drier summers and a substantial drop in river discharge. This might lead to water scarcity with detrimental economic and environmental effects. Among the possible adaptation responses to climate change-induced water scarcity, the re-allocation of water resources among competing uses should also be considered. In this paper, we extend and apply a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model to assess the potential of water markets (water allocation according to its shadow price) to guide the allocation of scarce water across agriculture, manufacturing, and public water supply. We develop four scenarios in which the scope of water markets is increased from industry-specific to economy-wide. The results show that the agricultural sector bears nearly all of the losses from a new water-scarce climate, while the manufacturing sectors are able to mitigate their losses to a large extent by technical measures. Extending the scope of water markets unambiguously increases economic output and results in a re-allocation of water to the manufacturing sector from the agricultural sector and from public water services. If, perhaps for political reasons, public water services are excluded from water trading, water is re-allocated from agriculture to manufacturing. Depending on which sectors are included, the construction of a water market can have negative or positive effects on a sector's output, and although the implementation of water markets may be positive for overall economic output and can hence assist adaptation, the effect on vulnerable or societally sensitive economic sectors, such as public water, should be taken into account when implementing such a market.

Keywords: Climate change; Computable general equilibrium; Water markets; Water scarcity.