Water Resources Allocation

Sharing Risks and Opportunities

image of Water Resources Allocation

Water resources allocation determines who is able to use water resources, how, when and where. It directly affects the value (economic, ecological, socio-cultural) that individuals and society obtain from water resources. This report overviews how allocation works in a range of countries and how the performance of allocation arrangements can be improved to adjust to changing conditions.

Capturing information from 27 OECD countries and key partner economies, the report presents key findings from the OECD Survey of Water Resources Allocation and case studies of successful allocation reform. It provides practical policy guidance for water allocation in the form of a "health check", which can be used to assess the performance of current arrangements and manage the transition to improved regimes.



Executive summary

Water resources allocation determines who is able to use water resources, how, when and where. Findings from a recent OECD survey of the current allocation landscape across 27 OECD and key partner countries, a first of its kind, reveal that most allocation regimes have elements that can encourage a robust system, but operate with significant limitations. Most allocation regimes today are strongly conditioned by historical preferences and usage patterns, tracing their roots to previous decades or even centuries. They have often evolved in a piecemeal fashion over time and exhibit a high degree of path dependency, which manifests in laws and policies, and even in the design and operational rules of long-lived water infrastructures. This means that water use is often locked-in to uses that are no longer as valuable today as they were decades ago, curtailing the value (ecological, socio-cultural, or economic) that individuals and society obtain from water.


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