Urban Water: Is Efficiency Enough?

Document Type

Journal Article


Blackwell Publishing Asia


Business and Law


Business and Law-Deans Office




This article was originally published as

Syme, G. (2008). Urban Water: Is Efficiency Enough?. Australian Economic Review, 41(4), 435-440.

Original article available here


Much of the rhetoric around water reform relates to the need to promote efficiency of conservation through charging the ‘true’ value of water (for example, Hughes et al. 2008) and the promotion of competition through markets not only between urban and rural water users but between different sectors of urban use and even between urban households (Productivity Commission 2008). Competition is thought to bring efficiency and therefore improved delivery of greater benefits for urban water users in the long term. Institutional structures should underpin the development of appropriate pricing and conservation strategies. Equity and other such difficult social concepts can be dealt with by special mechanisms such as Community Service Obligations. It is agreed that people should have enough high quality water to drink and wash in, although there may be some disagreement about exactly how much this is. In short, efficiency based water reform is not something that the community welfare lobby should worry too much about. More efficiency means more water to go around differing user groups. It is all pretty simple really, it is only the recalcitrant consumer aided and abetted by utility conservatism and short-term political views that have been holding us back.




Link to publisher version (DOI)