27 Jun 2011

My talk at the European Environmental Agency

A few weeks ago, I was part of a small session at the EEA in Copenhagen. We were exploring the meaning of "efficient water use" and how the EEA would approach the question.

There many interesting speakers, but it was an off-the-record event, so I only recorded my own talk.*

Here are my slides [PDF] and talk [30 min 14MB MP3] There is some interesting discussion at the end.

My main point was that regulators should pay more attention to outcomes and incentives than outputs (or particular technologies) and rules. I talked about markets for quality and quantity, of course, but my emphasis was on addressing the Knowledge Problem by maximizing decentralized decision making.

Bottom Line: The EU is looking for better ways to manage water quality and quantity.
* Two interesting facts: (1) 80% of the irrigation water used by Spanish farmers goes to crops with a value of less than 0.25€ per cubic meter of water. (2) Average energy consumption per person in the EU is 570 watts per day, of which 6 watts (1 percent!) is used for wastewater treatment.


  1. Thanks for sharing, interesting matters!

    Shouldn´t last sentence of your pdf presentation better have been:

    "Trade allows reallocation to most profitable use."

    Instead of "highest and best use"?


  2. @Johan -- good question. "Profit" is often measured in cash. Highest and best include profit AND other measures of value (happiness, etc.) that economists classify as utility (as in "maximizing utility")


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