Clear as mud? Water is under pressure

NZIER Insight 78
Water Rivers Water security Water catchments New Zealand

New Zealand’s freshwater resources are under pressure like never before. Public disputes over damming rivers for irrigation, the contamination of water supplies in Havelock North in 2015, and the media drumbeat on the deterioration of water quality and swimmable rivers all put the matter firmly on the political agenda during last election.

Competition for water in some catchments and uncertainty about society’s preferences about how water should be used creates conflicts and impedes resolution. What can economics tell us about how communities value water? What can economists do to help and inform those who have to make the hard decisions?

As part of NZIER’s 60th birthday celebration we used 1000Minds software to run an on-line survey to further understand New Zealanders’ water quality preferences. This is an illustration – a teaser – of what can be done to deepen our understanding of water preferences.  It can also potentially assist in informing/moulding policy responses to other aspects of environmental management. More broadly, it can be a useful tool in further understanding non-market values in areas important to New Zealanders.

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