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Ethical water allocations based on water footprint caps: a case study for the Yellow River Basin

Attema, M.J. (2023) Ethical water allocations based on water footprint caps: a case study for the Yellow River Basin.

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Abstract:Water scarcity in basins is a recurring problem over the world. Determining the amount of water which can be used in a sustainable manner is paramount to guarantee future use of the resource. The amount of water which can be used in a basin is dependent on the availability of the water. The creation of caps for water usage in a basin prescribes a maximum amount of water that can be used in space and time, and can help allocate the water to places where more water is needed using the distribute effects of reservoirs. The strategy of re-distributing water over parts of the sub-catchments requires certain allocation principles. In previous studies the redistribution was based on historical demand, using what is available and aspects such as Gross Domestic Product and population density. However the choice of perspectives is limited and the question of using a multitude of perspectives and determining the consequences based on their implementation has not been taken into account. Furthermore, the operation of reservoirs and their ability for redistribution has been based on historical usage, and has not been adapted to become an integral part of the distribution component. This study aims to determine the underlying ethical philosophies for each allocation scenario, implement and evaluate them in a case study of the Yellow river basin. This case study simulates the period of the 2010 - 2014 and evaluates six allocation strategies and their underlying philosophies. These allocation scenarios regard area, population, Gross Domestic Product, inverse Gross Domestic Product, industrial water demand and irrigation water demand. Our results confirm previous findings of the distributive effects of reservoirs and allocation strategies, increasing overall water availability and probably reducing water scarcity. We find that each sub-catchment has a preferred allocation scenarios for implementation. Furthermore we find that sub-catchments with limited water availability, which often occurs in tributaries, significantly reduces the potential fairness in the basin as a whole independent on the ethical indicator selected. The results of this study creates an understanding of the implementation and impact of ethical philosophies for each allocation strategy and stresses the difficulty in achieving fairness in water allocation.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:43 environmental science, 56 civil engineering
Programme:Civil Engineering and Management MSc (60026)
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