[ASC-media] Media Release: world tensions rising over water

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Fri Aug 11 01:38:02 CEST 2006

International Association of Agricultural Economists 26th Triennial Conference
Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, Australia
August 12-18, 2006	   


Friday August 11, 2006								


The growing scarcity of fresh water, worldwide, is leading to growing tensions between farmers and city users.

This is one of the issues to be discussed at a water workshop at the International Association of Agricultural Economists conference on Australia's Gold Coast tomorrow (Saturday, August 12, 2006).

Rising demand for water by the world's megacities is starting to place acute pressure on water supplies currently used to grow food in some regions, says environmental session chair Professor Dave Pannell, of the University of Western Australia.

At the same time awareness of looming scarcities and water quality problems is leading many countries to charge for water and to privatize its supply.

"The irony is that people regard water as so special that you should not charge for it - yet the consequence of not charging for water is that enormous quantities are wasted by inefficient use," Prof. Pannell says.

At the same time farmers in many areas are finding it hard to compete with city users in what they can afford to pay for water. Tensions between urban and agricultural water demands can now be seen round the world, including in Australia, the USA, India and China.

There are three possible effects:
"	local food production declines and more food is imported 
"	farmers innovate and produce more food using less water
"	food prices could rise to cover the higher cost of water.

Another important issue in the spotlight is the link between water and the environment. A particular Australian example is dryland salinity. Trees are now being widely planted to prevent dryland salinity, which is threatening water resources, agricultural land, infrastructure and native vegetation around Australia.  

Tree planting helps to prevent saline groundwaters from rising, but it also reduces the amount of surface water likely to end up in the river.  This in turn affects downstream users such as irrigators or city water supplies, Prof. Pannell says.

"In some catchments there can be a complex tradeoff between salinity management and water yield from a catchment.  The more trees we plant, the less water there is for other uses, especially in higher rainfall, hilly areas."

Other issues to be discussed at the workshop include:
*	water trading and prices
*	how China will cope with its future water demand
*	water and the environment
*	measures to improve water quality and efficiency
*	the economics of water infrastructure in regional areas.

Media are welcome to attend and report on the IAAE water workshop.

The International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) 26th Annual Conference on "The Contribution of Agricultural Economics to Critical Policy Issues" is at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, from August 12-18, 2006.

More information:
IAAE media centre, Gold Coast Convention Centre, +61 (0)7 5504 4019 (Sat) or 07 3210 3604 (Fri)
Professor Dave Pannell, UWA,  mobile no. 0439 402725
Media contact: Prof. Julian Cribb, 0418 639 245

Conference program & details:

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