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The True Cost of Water


for Members

The True Cost of Water

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The New York Academy of Sciences

The importance of water for sustainable human development and healthy functioning of Earth’s ecosystem has never been more pressing an issue than it is today. Skyrocketing water demands for industry and agriculture, coupled with decreasing availability of freshwater resources due to unsustainable usage, has led to the need for novel and effective water resource management strategies.

The focus of this panel discussion is the importance of economic optimization of water usage in the present and in the future to establish long-term sustainability of water resources. Among the needs for water resource management are the desirability of achieving equitable distribution of scarce water among communities and the allocation of water among different industries such as power generation and irrigation.

The specific aim of this forum is to discuss the topic of the real price of water. A detailed analysis of the associated costs and impacts will include:

- The extraction and delivery infrastructure
- Treatment and loss of ecosystem services
- The current distribution of costs and who is paying for what
- Opportunity costs and economic externalities
- Environmental and social costs
- Relative importance and value of water in different markets
- Financial risk management


Gregory Characklis, PhD

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Michael Hanemann, PhD

University of California, Berkeley

Upmanu Lall, PhD

Columbia Water Center


Gregory Characklis, PhD

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Greg Characklis is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His primary research interests involve integrated planning of water supply and treatment strategies through the consideration of both engineering and economic criteria. He also serves as an Associate Editor with the journal Water Resources Research and currently chairs a committee sponsored by the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors entitled, “Integrating Economic and Financial Principles into Environmental Engineering Research and Education.” Prior to joining UNC, Dr. Characklis served as Director of Resource Development and Management at Azurix Corp., where his responsibilities centered around assessing the technical and financial merits of water-related investments. Before entering the private sector, he spent two years in Washington, D.C. as a fellow with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) where he co-authored a study on industrial environmental performance metrics and conducted work related to market-based reform of environmental policy. Dr. Characklis holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. in Environmental Science and Engineering from Rice University and a B.S. from Johns Hopkins University.

Michael Hanemann, PhD

University of California, Berkeley

Michael Hanemann is a Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics and the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. His interests include the environmental economics and policy, water, and climate change. He is recognized as one of the leading experts on nonmarket valuation and on the economics of water. He served as the California State Water Resources Control Board’s economics staff from 1986 to 1990 (including the first three years of the Bay-Delta Hearings) and as its economic consultant in 1992-1993 for its Mono Lake Decision. He co-edited the standard textbook on Urban Water Management (McGraw Hill, 1998) and is co-author of the recent chapter on “Water and Sanitation,” in Bjorn Lomborg (ed.) Global Crises, Global Solutions: Costs and Benefits Second Edition, Cambridge University Press (2009).

Professor Hanemann directed the California Climate Change Center at UC Berkeley, which was established in 2003 to analyze policy issues relating to impacts of climate change on California, including those on water, agriculture; energy, human health, coastal resources and natural ecosystems, and economic policies for reducing carbon emissions in California. He co-directed the 2006 Climate Change Scenarios Project for the state of California and served on the steering committee for the 2009 Climate Change Scenarios Project. He is faculty co-Director of the Climate and Energy Policy Institute at UC Berkeley Law School.

Upmanu Lall, PhD

Columbia Water Center

*Additional speaker biographies coming soon.


Improving Water Management through Integration of Engineering and Economics

Gregory W. Characklis, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Population growth and economic development continue to drive increasing demand for water, while the costs and regulatory hurdles associated with developing new supplies have risen steadily. Consequently, a growing number of regions face serious water resource challenges, challenges that may become increasingly complex if climate change induces significant changes in the hydrologic cycle. Improved strategies for managing existing water resources and developing new supplies will be required if society is to reliably meet its demands in a manner that is both cost effective and environmentally sustainable. More sophisticated planning approaches can benefit from the development of models that couple the hydrologic, engineering and economic elements of water resource systems. Following an introduction to some of the primary forces affecting water resource planning in the U.S., a rationale for interdisciplinary water resources research will be discussed. This will be followed by several examples in which principles from both engineering and economics are incorporated in the development of alternative strategies for infrastructure planning, water supply risk management and hydropower operations.


*Additional abstracts coming soon.

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