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Tecnología y ciencias del agua

On-line version ISSN 2007-2422


BATISTA-MEDINA, José Antonio. Return to Dublin: Do Traditional Communities Manage Water as an Economic Resource?. Tecnol. cienc. agua [online]. 2015, vol.6, n.2, pp.101-111. ISSN 2007-2422.

While the idea of water as an economic good is not new, it has expanded since the Dublin Conference was held (1992). What is the meaning of water as an economic resource? We can identify two approaches or interpretations. The first considers water to be an input (a productive input), as any other in an economic system. In this context, water must have a price or be transferred through market institutions. These economic tools will create an efficient use of the water, that is, more benefits. Water thereby becomes a commodity. The second interpretation is defined in broader economic terms. Water as an economic resource means that it is a scarce resource and must be carefully managed to attain the goals established by a particular society. Treating water as an economic good does not imply the use of one specific set of economic tools. While prices, markets, private property, etcetera are tools that can all be found in a particular toolbox, other toolboxes exist. There are other ways to sustainably manage water from a social, economic and ecological point of view. We will apply this second interpretation to the analysis of water management in traditional communities. We will attempt to answer the question of whether traditional communities manage water as an economic resource. Social science research about the management of small scale irrigation systems shows that those systems generally manage water as an economic resource; that is, as a scarce resource. Although traditional irrigation systems had generally operated well in social, economic and ecological terms, modern water science and policies have ignored them, transforming or destroying them by applying universal concepts, criteria and tools. We conclude that traditional and indigenous institutions and organizations have many lessons to teach in regard to the treatment and management of water, and they should be supported and protected.

Keywords : Water; water as an economic good; traditional and indigenous irrigation systems; sustainable management; Integrated Water Resources Management; water culture.

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