How is it that a benign, renewable resource like water could result in as much hardship and suffering as water does?
Water, like air, is a common-pool resource. Without water you will die in days; without air you will die in minutes.
Both air and water vary in quality and the temporal and spatial distribution of differences in quality has a big impact on the suitability of each common-pool resource for re-use. One big difference between water and air is that the availability of air is essentially stationary in time and uniform in space. For example, the quantity of air is not a limiting factor for agricultural production. Quality matters but not quantity.
Water is totally unique in terms of our dependence on both its availability and suitability. Both quantity and quality are highly variable in both time and space. Furthermore each, and every, use of water alters its availability and suitability for downstream uses. These anthropogenic alterations of the hydrological cycle constrain our ability to use water without impacting on other beneficial uses of the same water.
We don’t need any knowledge to simply be able to use water. We just take whatever is available and dispose of whatever is left over. This is the way we have behaved for millennia and hydrological ignorance has worked for us, more or less, so far.
However, the wisdom with which we use water from the common-pool is highly dependent on our knowledge of the variability of water quantity and quality in time and space.
It is only by consideration of what is available that we can ensure that the residual will be adequate for the sum of potential benefits that water is capable of providing.
It is becoming increasingly rare that any beneficial new use of the common-pool is not offset, to some degree, by some disbenefit to other dependents of the common-pool resource. Lack of knowledge of water quantity and quality inevitably leads to water over-use, misuse, or abuse.
The value water is infinite. The value of hydrological information is merely a function of our dependency on water security. There are fewer and fewer regions of the world that can claim to have sufficient water security that they can enjoy sustainable growth and prosperity without a reliable source of hydrological information. Paradoxically, most jurisdictions in the world are ‘saving money’ by not expanding their investments in water monitoring. In fact, some regions are actually cutting spending on monitoring.
If you are reading this blog post it is probably because you are actively involved in some aspect of water monitoring.
If so, then you will likely find my new eBook “The Value of Water Monitoring” an interesting read. You can download the free eBook here:
If, in your opinion, there is inadequate funding for water monitoring in your region then you must take steps to get this eBook into the inbox, or on the desk, of the people who can influence the future of funding for water monitoring in your part of the world. I may not be able get this information into the hands of the right people — but you can.
I am initiating a global conversation about the adequacy of funding for water monitoring. Such funding must be sufficient to ensure that the truth about our water security is revealed. Our watersheds give up their information grudgingly. It takes an extensive, persistent, approach to gain insight and knowledge about the essential role of our watersheds in governing our health, safety, and prosperity.
Join the conversation on May 28th.
Join me and ICWP Executive Directors Ryan Mueller and Peter Evens for an important online presentation and discussion intended to help address the global funding gap for water monitoring.
ICWP Webinar: Securing More Funding for Water Monitoring
Thursday, May 28, 2015
11 AM Pacific | 12 PM Mountain | 1 PM Central | 2 PM Eastern
Over the course of the summer I will be writing a series of posts. There will be one post for each chapter of the eBook. For each chapter I will also pose a question. These posts will be distributed using social media to provoke a reaction to the questions. Please help to stimulate this conversation by sharing your thoughts with a reply below.