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University of Sydney (2007)

EFFICIENT WATER ALLOCATION IN A HETEROGENEOUS CATCHMENT SETTING

Lee, Lisa Yu-Ting

Titre : EFFICIENT WATER ALLOCATION IN A HETEROGENEOUS CATCHMENT SETTING

Auteur : Lee, Lisa Yu-Ting

Université de soutenance : University of Sydney

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2007

Résumé partiel
The problem of water scarcity has become one of the most controversial topics in Australia over the past decades, with particular focus being the ‘sustainable’ allocation of water between extractive and environmental purposes. Geographical factors are defining the extreme variability in climate and water supply in Australia and, in the past, this was used as a rationale for the construction of large irrigation projects to deliver water to rural, urban, and industrial users. During this ‘expansionary’ phase of Australia’s water use sector, the cost of augmenting supply was relatively low and environmental considerations were secondary to the development imperative. As a result, water resources became over-allocated for extractive uses spurred on by consistent underpricing of water, which indicated a failure to reflect the true cost of water supply. As Australia’s water economy entered a ‘mature’ phase, it was no longer possible to increase supply cheaply as the most easily accessible water resources had already been captured. This was followed by widespread environmental degradation manifested in the Murray- Darling Basin, the nation’s largest river basin which hosts much of Australia’s agricultural production. Consequently, the focus shifted towards demand management, leading to a myriad of regulation aimed at increasing the allocative efficiency of scarce water resources. Towards this end, substantial government funding was injected into the various initiatives throughout the water reform process. Despite the on-going government activities in the area of water reform, the understanding of the actual economic impact and environmental outcomes of various water policies in practice remains limited. In the absence of such understanding, the effectiveness of various government water initiatives is ambiguous and inevitably compromised. The present study addresses this knowledge gap by establishing a method for evaluating the economic and environmental outcomes of environmentally-oriented polices that affect irrigated industries in a catchment. The method is based on an integrated biophysical and economic modelling approach, which enables spatial relationships to be captured accurately allowing a more realistic analysis. Information generated from a computer based biophysical simulation model form the basis of an economic optimisation model with constraints pertaining to environmental targets and water supply limits.

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