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The End of Abundance: Economic Solutions to Water Scarcity Paperback – June 9, 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


David Zetland has written a very informative, accessible and necessary book which explains the reality of water scarcity and the imperative of applying sound economics and local control to what was previously the exclusive preserve of engineers and politicians. In fact, it is a book that every water engineer and local politician should read to their benefit and that of their customers and citizens. --G. Tracy Mehan, III (former Assistant Administrator for water, US Environmental Protection Agency)

This is not a text for those seeking a rehash of the standard "water wars" catechism. Zetland outlines a fresh, creative approach to allocating a valuable resource in regions with competing demands. Importantly, his vision does not entail an expensive and sluggish command-and-control bureaucracy coddling whatever class of water users happen to enjoy momentary political favor. Protecting our environment, growing our food, and supplying our cities has always required the ingenuity of a free people. It is time we realized that in managing our water. --Philip Bowles (President, Bowles Farming Company)

There is no scarcity of books describing the challenges the United States and nations across the globe face in managing water to meet today's needs and future demands. The good news is that effective solutions exist. The better news is that David Zetland has written a book that presents solutions to these water challenges that protect public health, ensure ecological vitality, and support economic growth. He delivers the rational way forward in a style and language that the public as well as public officials --- and if we are lucky, politicians! --- can understand and act on. --Michael Deane (Executive Director, National Association of Water Companies)

Bold, provocative and refreshing -- Zetland brings common sense to the water scarcity discussion. --Spreck Rosekrans (Senior Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund)

Disruptive and provocative, Zetland is the Ben Franklin of water. He hurls common sense against professional aristocrats to ensure our priceless liquid asset belongs, democratically, to 7 billion amateurs like you and me. --James Workman (Author, Heart of Dryness)

From the Author

From the Acknowledgements:

I began my PhD at UC Davis in 2002 with the intention of studying the economics of developing countries, a field that concentrates on government failure, corruption and weak institutions. After an ill-fated attempt to study the cultivation of coca (for cocaine) in Peru, I turned to water in California. I got interested in this topic when my adviser Richard Howitt told me about conflict among members of a water cooperative (the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, or MWD). I was intrigued. Why would members of a cooperative fight instead of cooperate? In my quest for an answer to this question, I went from one "why?" to another "why?" until I had a narrative of events, decisions, and policies that began more than 100 years before the modern conflict. It took me about three years to assemble this narrative into a PhD dissertation, but that process also helped me understand how to apply institutional analysis to the water sector. The major theme of that study and the central theme here) is how institutions that fail to change with circumstances will not work very well.

I began blogging as a graduate student because I was interested in communicating with non-economists. My aguanomics blog initially focused on problems like those at MWD, but I soon expanded to other problems, places, and institutions, looking for old patterns and new lessons. Some problems could be solved with easy economics (charging higher prices to reduce landscape irrigation); others adopted solutions from my work with MWD (auctions for farmers like auctions at MWD); but some were totally different and difficult to understand. These problems related to human rights, the environment, water quality, aquifer depletion, bottled water, and so on.

In the course of thinking about these problems, suggesting answers and responding to readers, I tried to integrate insights from engineering, politics, religion, ecology, business and sociology. I made mistakes, borrowed good ideas, and flip-flopped my opinions -- always searching for better answers.

This book distills that experience, but it also reflects my opinions on how the world is and should be. It's not perfect, but hopefully it will give you what it gave me -- a decent answer to a small but powerful question: why?
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Aguanomics Press; 1st edition (June 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615469736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615469737
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,145,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the "End of Abundance", David Zetland provides a comprehensive overview of the many facets and issues that are being discussed today in the world of water. What's most fascinating about this book is how economics, good public policy and institutions (with progressive leaders) can help shift water practices that are inherently inefficient and inequitable to ones that are just and sustainable.

David's core thesis is that the end of abundance (which means increased water scarcity in our world) requires institutions and leaders that are willing to use economic incentives and pricing to radically change the way we use water. His bottom line is that the solutions to our water crisis must be local in nature because what happens in water area is unique to that area.

I strongly recommend that anyone interested in earth's most precious resource -- the one that keeps us going everyday, provides a natural beauty to our planet and provides a habitat for millions of species -- read this book! The stories, ideas and insights in this book are so valuable whether you are a water manager or someone interested in conserving water. I enjoyed reading the book very much and continue to enjoy Zetland's blog (Aguanomics). I think it's people like David who take the time to write such books, deliver public lectures and write blog posts on this topic that will help shift the way we manage our water in the 21st century.

Thanks for the book, David, it was quite the adventure and I learned a lot.
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The End of Abundance is THE book for our time. After over 20 years in the water business globally, we finaly have an economist who understands water. David has done an excellent job in illustrating the absurdity of the "human right to water" and why it has not nor will it ever work.
Water is a commodity. It always has been and always will be because the harvest, treatment,conveyance, and storage is costly. Markets work and they work very well. The work comes in moving from a government who thinks they know best and buyers who always know better.
I think this is one of the best books written about water I've read.
The best thing I can say to David, is THANK YOU for writting it.
I intend to require this be read by every employee and every consultant and every client we work with.

Ric Davidge, Chairman
AQUEOUS International, Inc.
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Format: Paperback
This is a very timely book, and a very well written and approachable one too. Travelling on (water) business in Tajikistan in 2010, time and time again I and colleagues were told about the important and overlooked ability of water economics to unlock seemingly intractable international water disputes. Time and again the old clichés about Water Wars have been trotted out by lazy journalists, and when water is suddenly "recognised" as a human right by the UN those who are unsure about such recognition feel unsure themselves about voicing their misgivings as to whether this will actually help poor people gain access to clean water that would otherwise have been denied to them.

David Zetland's book explains why water economics matters alongside more established water disciplines, such as engineering, diplomacy and hydrological science. He slices through well-worn platitudes and scary godmother warnings and water and shows how economic analysis and policy making can make a real and positive difference to reaching solutions on water. The End of Abundance is a great starting-off point for anyone thirsty for knowledge on this most vital of subjects.

Daniel Gilbert, Knowledge Exchange Coordinator, IHP-HELP Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science, University of Dundee, Scotland
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The End of Abundance (TEoA) should be required reading for any person interested in the field of water resources. Engineers, economists, environmentalists, utility managers, venture capitalists, city council members, students, professors, and water scientists.

Likewise, anyone who has any interest in figuring out how to equitably and efficiently allocate the world's freshwater resources will be intellectually richer from having read this book. The most important dimension that Zetland illustrates in TEoA is the importance of incorporating markets into the allocation of water management. Though it is fashionable in many circles to avoid anything that sniffs of privatization or markets with regard to natural resources, Zetland makes a convincing and compelling argument for replacing/retrofitting failed, outdated institutions for dynamic institutions that are capable of meeting the challenges of scarcity.

Zetland, via suggesting that markets can deliver equitable allocation where government bureaucracies & monopolies fail, stirs the hornet's nest in the environmental community. I like this. If we're not uncomfortable, it often means we're complacent, so my discomfort reading this book is a good sign. The key success of Zetland in this area is that he doesn't come off as an `industry apologist' as some might label him. He argues with ruthless logic, which lends his arguments a strength that other's rarely seem to acquire.

I will be recommending this book to all of my colleagues in the water resources field.
Also, if you want to know more I've posted a full(er) review at the Water Security Blog: [...
Read more ›
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