Social justice aspects of water allocation mechanisms

Water Economics, Policy and Governance Network (WEPGN)

Social justice aspects of water allocation mechanisms

Project Description:

Water is scarce in southern Alberta, the basin is closed so that no new applications for water extraction licenses are accepted, and climate change predictions suggest that water might be even scarcer. There is an increasing pressure to leave more water in the rivers for the environment, which will further increase the scarcity for extractive users. There is an urgent need to find mechanisms to allocate and reallocate water among competing users including the environment and to make more of the water available for extractive use. A concern is the socioeconomic impact of achieving these objectives within current water dependent communities. The level of impact will depend on the policy choices made, the acceptability of such policies among stakeholders, water users reactions to such policies, and the ability of current water users to cope with less water. These issues are at the core of this proposal.

The objectives of this research are to: i) develop potential policies which can be used to allocate available water and to reallocate it between existing uses and new uses to better reflect society’s changing water values; ii) estimate the impact of alternative allocation policies on current water users supply reliability; iii) evaluate the acceptability of such policies among the general population and key stakeholders; iv) evaluate existing water users likely management responses to such policies; and v) assess the likely socioeconomic impact of these responses. The knowledge gained from this research will provide important insights into the interaction between water, society and the Canadian economy. Leaving more water in the rivers for the environment will provide significant economic as well as non-economic benefits for some users while be at the cost of others. Each decision represents a trade-off between one use and another and will have an interactive effect throughout our society and economy.

This project builds on ongoing research and will utilize its data and findings. Each of the five objectives will be using different methods:

i) Literature review, a review of outcomes from current and ongoing surveys of irrigators and non-irrigators in the SSRB about policy preferences for water reallocation or sharing.
ii) Multivariate analysis of existing survey data to establish: i) the policy preferences for water sharing of the general public as well as irrigators and what influences such preferences and how they vary across sectors of the community; ii) irrigators’ perception and acceptance of water transaction; iii) irrigators’ adoption of improved water use technologies and practices; and iv) urban residents’ willingness to adopt water saving practices and what influences it.
iii) OASIS modeling, the PHD student working on this is currently learning how to use this program and will be ready to conduct analysis in time for this project. The creator of OASIS is on our team
iv) In-depth interview on stakeholder perception of water allocation mechanisms, Q-method or Analytic Hierarchy Process
v) Broad based survey of public perception of water allocation mechanisms
vi) In-depth interviews and qualitative analysis of main water user groups in the SSRB
vii) Economic modelling using farm level as well as district level models currently being developed as part of our major project funded by AIEES

Secondary data such as hydraulic data as well as economic and water use data for the SSRB are already collected by our team. All secondary data should be in place when the project starts. Some update might be desirable during the project but sources have been identified. We are currently building a data base of contact information for potential respondents from various sectors of the society. These databases can be further expanded using list providers


Wei Xu, & Henning Bjornlund


Alberta Innovates: Energy and Environment Solutions (AIEES); and University of Lethbridge

Graduate Students:

Joseph Zhao (post-doc), Parastoo Emami, Nader Khoshroo, & Matthew Hall