Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water use and Water Pollution

A Report of the Water Working Group of the International Resource Panel

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As the World population approaches nine billion, nearly half of all people could suffer water stress by 2030 as a result of accelerating urbanization, new consumption habits and climate change. This report provides option for a viable and sustainable alternative; one that swaps economic growth fuelled by escalating water use and environmental degradation for a more durable model of social, economic and environmental resilience. If the world continues on its current course, by 2030, annual demand for water in North America and Sub-Saharan Africa could increase by 42 and 283 per cent respectively, compared to 2005 levels. That is why the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to decouple economic growth from water consumption and pollution by integrating water related issues across each of the 17 goals and making a specific commitment that “ensures availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”



Policy innovation and decoupling

This chapter provides an overview of how policy innovation may contribute to decoupling. Because many of the policy innovations presented in this section involve the use of economic instruments, the chapter begins with a brief review of some of the characteristics of water that limit the extent to which the resource can be managed as an economic good. Policy solutions with the potential to contribute to resource decoupling are described for the agricultural, industry, and municipal water supply sectors. In addition, systems-level policy approaches with the potential to encourage efficient use across sectors are also described. The section concludes with an examination of equity considerations that should be included in the design of policy measures. Obviously, the tools described here are not an exhaustive collection of all the policy tools available, but they provide a broad introduction to some of the most well- known and documented ones.


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