26 Mar 2014

Six years of aguanomics

On the fifth anniversary of this blog, I wrote that Cornelia and I were returning to North America to reconnect with friends and family and find jobs. I also predicted that I would finish my book before we left Europe in July.

We did move to Vancouver, find jobs, see old friends and make new friends, but we also decided that it's better to live in Amsterdam, so we're moving back in less than a month.

I didn't start Living with Water Scarcity until September and it's nearly done. Today is the first time I've posted the cover anywhere. The interior has more words and some great illustrations, so I hope you're looking forward to reading it. (It's really interesting to see how people buy, review and use books. I also like the design/publish/marketing process, as it lets me be creative about presenting ideas.)

This blog is where that book and The End of Abundance began. It's a place for me to write about water issues and for us to discuss them. Aguanomics has been -- and continues -- to be a place of ideas (and an occasional joke). Your participation is what makes those discussions interesting, and I plan to continue blogging into the future. (I have an idea for another blog; I'll reveal it -- if it still seems like a good idea -- later this year.)

World water year, every year

Every year, the media and various water-oriented organizations indulge in a one-day frenzy of awareness. It's ironic that all the work put into those results and reports is often wasted because authors are exhausted and readers cannot deal with the surge of information. (I delete all the press releases.) This blog covers water issues year 'round because (1) there's plenty of interesting stuff going on all the time and (2) it takes time to understand the links and forces that drive water policies, allocations, and results.

Yesterday, for example, I made one point several times: don't look at the net impacts (=benefits-costs) of a policy; look at the winners and losers if you want to know how it came into effect and will work. (I was talking about policies that allow oil/gas companies to pollute groundwater next to First Nations settlements in BC and Alberta.)

I've found that it's better to focus on the same, simple ideas until people get them. There are a lot of sophisticated models, analyses, data, etc. related to water, but most people lack the time to understand them and a reason to do so. They want to know a few simple things to do first, which makes sense to me.

Here are a few, in no particular order:
  • If you want a particular environmental status, then make sure you leave adequate water to achieve it
  • If water supplies are running low, raise the price of water to reduce quantity demanded. For retail water, this means raising the price of tap water. For bulk water (irrigation, industry), this means market pricing of available quantities
  • Make sure that the people who benefit from infrastructure pay for it
  • Businesses can pay the full cost of water because it's just another input. People can pay the full cost also -- except the very poorest people (<$2/day)
  • Politics can make winners and losers, so avoid political solutions for private goods (most water)
  • and so on...
Me, up a Colombian tree
It's very cool how people are really interested in water issues (I always have something to discuss with strangers), but it's also a little sad. Bad water policies attract attention, concern and headlines; good water policies are invisible.

FYI, I've tagged a number of posts "AG101" for aguanomics 101, i.e., posts that cover foundational or recurring themes. It's sometimes hard to know what to read when there are 4,800 posts!

Some statistics

As with last year, I see that overall traffic and new visitors fell in the past year vs. the year before [pdf]. The sad explanation is that people are not as interested in water issues or my blog. The happy explanation is that people came by, learned what they wanted to, and left. The sad explanation is more likely, but it's also hard to keep people's attention on water in the same way as you can keep their attention on a broader economics blog (e.g., Marginal Revolution). Or perhaps people have less time for everything, as they try to "do" twitter, reddit and other websites I haven't heard of. (Or perhaps, these statistics miss ±1,700 people reading the blog via RSS and other remote services.)

The blog's technorati rank was 3,135/105,767 in 2011 and it's 3,199/66,613 now (authority has fallen from 482 to 435). Fierce competition at the top has kept me in place at the same time as a bunch of blogs have shut down.

Spam provides a measure of (perverted) prestige. I get a few offers per week from people who want to write guest posts advertorials. Spammers leave a few comments per day. #sopopular

Another fact of interest is the geographical change in aguanomics's audience, which has grown worldwide at the same time as it's fallen in the US [pdf]. That diversification is a useful sign.

Bottom Line

I like blogging and will continue to do so as I return to Amsterdam and look into work as a consultant and perhaps a lecturer. I hope that you're enjoying the blog -- feel free to send suggestions, questions and gossip.



Cynthia Barnett said...

David, congratulations on six years and glad to see that your glass is more than half full!

David R said...

Glad you're doing this David.

Safe travels!

FWIW- have a look at your pageview time series and see if pageviews dropped when your e-mail list grew!

Jean Fried said...

Congratulations, David, for a very good blog. It is a little more than a year that I met you in The Hague and I have enjoyed reading you. I am now in France until May when I go back to California, enjoying my grand children who live in Normandy and in Paris, and also working at UNESCO as usual from time to time.
My very best wishes for your new life in Amsterdam and my greetings to the Rijksmuseum!

Johannes said...

Hi David, a great blog indeed, one of my absolute favourites since a long time.

An opportunity still is to facilitate better commenting and discussions. I´m sure many of your followers are more communicative than it seems now, as most posts do have only a few comments, or none.

Not sure whether some link with Linkedin could improve this. Others choose facebook, but not really appropriate for profesional discussions. And I know you´re not really fond of fb. There may be other ways I´m not aware of. Would be great if Twitter allowed integrating a tweets on a certain post, embedded within this particular blog post.

Good luck in A´dam, my hometown.


Johannes said...

Why for example I get the option "Email follow-up comments to email adress" only after I have already posted the comment. This causes I easily loose track of the disuccion updates. This is really something that blogger should make better.


Unknown said...

Very clear and accessible blog- even for me! The cover also makes for a wide public I'd think. Congratulations. And looking forward to see you both soon in Amsterdam again.


Tim said...

Congrats, David! I've been reading your blog since 2008 and continue to enjoy your many insightful posts! Looking forward to reading more in 2014 and beyond :)

David Zetland said...

@all -- thanks for the great comments. We will, indeed, be saying hi to A'dam very happily :)

@David R -- Good point. It's a pity that I don't have NSA-access, since they probably know my true audience -- and what they had for breakfast ;)

@Johannes -- My blog posts are automatically tweeted, but I shut down feeds to FB and LinkedIn b/c it seemed to spammy to me. There's WAY too much information out there for some people, and I'm trying to be available without being annoying (hard when I have so many AWESOME things to say ;)

Tim in Albion said...

"Less time for everything" pretty much describes why I haven't been reading and commenting here much. But the blog is still useful to me, insightful and thought-provoking. I should refer more people to it.

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.