Article | November 24, 2013

The Value Of Water: Much More Than A Matter Of Economics

By Donna Vincent Roa


Earlier this month, the EPA published The Importance of Water in the US Economy, a follow-on report to a meeting of distinguished water leaders held December 2012 at American University on the value of water. A key finding of the report, which is based on a review of the literature and practice on the importance of water to the U.S. economy, is that it is difficult to find data that can accurately measure the true value of water to the economy. The data is elusive.

The report explains that we just don't have the empirical data to define the value of water at a systems-level perspective. Water is a complex and essential commodity. Water is valuable, pervasive and demands for it are interrelated, so trying to determine its value is equally as complex.

So minus the real data, what we can do is work to change the way we value water at the person-level perspective. We can deliver a new definition for the value of water. All levels of society – from individual to the nations of our global community – need to improve our understanding of water's value to society. Collectively, we should seek to understand its relevance, use, and importance and create a mental framework that consistently places a high value on water and not allow this valuation to change over time.

I sincerely understand the need to substantiate and quantify water's value. Don't get me wrong, however, water valuation cannot be all about economics and data. 

How we value water will be or can be defined by the evidence of positive actions that we take to conserve it, fix leaking pikes and upgrade aging infrastructure, improve the way that this global asset is managed, protect the quality of our waters, maintain water quality standards, develop innovative technologies that improve efficiency and management of water, and execute sustainable water resource management strategies that guarantee the future of water. 

"…(O)ptimize environmental, economic, and social benefits, emphasizing a long-term focus. In doing so, it can show how economic activity and social welfare depend both on the use of water and – in less obvious ways – on conservation and protection of aquatic ecosystems, habitat, and water resources, not only for our benefit, but also for the benefit of future generations," the report says.

Water connects all of us. My universal message is that water should be valued like you value life, data or no data. We all need to support the optimal use of our water resources.

About The Author
Accredited business communicator, water communication expert, and counsel to CEOs, scientists, engineers and professional communicators, Donna delivers holistic, value-based and industry-relevant solutions and results. Donna is actively involved in engagement with global water leaders at highest levels of business, government, associations, and international organizations. She is a multipotentialite, a fan of Einstein, and an avid environment and nature photographer who frequently writes about water issues.

Image credit: "Playing in Water Fountain," © 2013 Ian D. Keating, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic:

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