Upcoming talk at Acadia University: Valuing water

I’m delighted to be heading to Acadia University next week to give a talk just ahead of World Water Day, which is held annually on March 22. The talk is on valuing water resources. Here is an overview:


Water is neither only physical nor wholly social. As such, its value is intractably linked to how it is classified, and this informs much of the debate over how it should be valued. Is it a good? If so, is it an economic or a public good? Are those things at odds? If it is not a good, is water best classified in terms of a heritage of mankind, an individual human right, or something else? This presentation examines how water is valued at the intersection of society and ecology and, specifically, how the widely held idea that water is a resource inflects the dominant ways in which its value is understood. I provide historical context regarding the cultural notion that water is a resource and then trace four periods of water resources valuation. These set the strong social norms of early 20th century planning against the rise of individualist forms of valuation that subsequently gained prominence in both economics and social policy. I also track the gradual rise of ecology as a locus for competing social and economic claims regarding the value of water resources, a process now culminating in the idea of ‘ecosystem services’. By mapping these two dimensions of water policy, and their intersections, the attempt to value water resources can be explained in terms of the difficulty water presents to idea that it is merely H­2O or that its value is wholly socially constructed. Further, it also helps to explain why we are faced with our current water policy challenges and not others.


  1. […] previously scheduled talk at Acadia University is going ahead today. Here is a snippet of the introduction that target […]

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