Friday, December 5, 2008

The Rising Cost of Deteriorating Water Quality

Everything is not well in South Africa's Waterland.  Sewerage, industrial effluents and acids are contaminating South Africa's scarce water resources. Some speak of a water crises

Water in South Africa belongs to the state (National Water Act). The question that does arise is whether the state are able to manage and protect this water effectively. There is mounting evidence that this is not the case. Many water resources are effectively treated as common property and without clear and binding institutional arrangements are overexploited as repositories of waste. Unregulated markets will generally produce more then the desired amount of pollution, externalising these costs onto the environment and ultimately on human beings and the environment dependent on clean water.

A honest review of government failure is long overdue. It is also time to bring the polluters to book and time for developing open-minded approaches to the pricing of water pollution. Gradual and well-designed prices on the scarcity of natural resources send more correct signals to market players on the cost of pollution, and may help to avoid sudden crises.  When water quality approaches critical levels, longer delays will only mean rising costs of inaction.

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