Abstract

Groundwater is best described as an open access good: as a common pool resource others cannot be excluded from using and as a finite resource, its consumption leaves less for others to enjoy. In addition to its obvious benefits to humans and animals, it contributes in sustaining the hydro-environment and life on the planet. Scarcity causes groundwater to become an economic good and have an economic value. By and large, economic valuations respond to changes in the quantity and quality of groundwater. They are based on Willingness to Pay for maintaining its benefits or Willingness to Accept Compensation for giving them up. There have been some 50 published groundwater valuation studies worldwide in the last 30 years, mostly focussing on groundwater quality and contamination. There is sparsity of valuations in Africa and Asia. The results suggest median economic values of 60-160 and mean values of 70-480 US dollars per household per year. Generally, values are higher in the United States followed by Europe, and lowest in Asia. People's income is a major factor affecting values, but this does not mean they value groundwater less. Economic valuations and cost-benefit analysis are useful in highlighting people's priorities and choice of options. However, economics alone should not dictate actions for protecting groundwater resources from degradation and depletion.

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