The Economics of Water Scarcity and Variability

  • Citation: Richard Damania, The economics of water scarcity and variability, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 36, Issue 1, Spring 2020, Pages 24–44
    • Topics:
    • Transnational Issues
    • Keywords:
    • economic impacts of water scarcity and variability

Does the availability or variability of water matter for the economy? Does it meaningfully impact the growth and development trajectory of a country? It may seem surprising that answers to these most basic of questions remain elusive. The aim of this paper is to summarize recent work on the economic impacts of water scarcity and variability. The paper finds that there is strong evidence that variations in rainfall and water availability have significant impacts on particular sectors, such as agriculture, human capital, and even conflict. But paradoxically evidence of impacts on economic growth and other measures of aggregate economic activity remains ambiguous. The paper explains reasons for this anomaly and explores the pathways through which water impacts the economy. The paper provides a synthesis of key developments in the literature, identifies methodological gaps, and suggests policy solutions.

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