Why we should pay for water?

Head of the laboratory of «Geospatial Economy»,

Doctor of Economics Medeu A. A.

Junior researchers of the laboratory of

«Geospatial Economy»

Kyrgyzbay M. K., Bauyrzhan U. B.

The fierce struggle for control over the water resources and highly productive agricultural land have to become urgent already in the near future. So, over the past 50 years, around 507 "water" conflicts have taken place, particularly 21 times military. The greatest concern is the conflict between the two nuclear powers India and China over the water sources located in the Himalayas responsible for supplying the world's largest rivers: the Yangtze, Mekong, Brahmaputra, Ganges as well.

Water demand have expanded and multiplied from the era of primitive communal economy to the present. Previously, water was used only for quenching thirst and bathing. With improvement of new skills and the production of hunting tools as well as labor developent from time to time, people began to consume more water for their various needs: in processing the skins of slaughtered animals, in pottery, metal smelting. With the development of civilization and new fields of activity, the water demand has increased drastically. The development of civilization can be measured in liters of water consumed per capita. Currently in the the United States, about 7,000 liters of water is consumed per day, while in some developing countries-no more than 30 liters, i.e. 200 times less. While the Stone Age man consumed, approximately, less than 10 liters of water per day.   It is a mistake to believe that fresh water resources, unlike other mineral resources, are inexhaustible, due to the natural circulation and regeneration of water on the Earth.


Despite the fact that 71 % of the Earth's surface is covered by water (oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, glaciers) – 361.13 million km2, approximately 96.5% of water on the Earth amount the oceans, 1.7% of the world's reserves are groundwater, another 1.7% - glaciers and ice of Antarctica and Greenland, a small part are the rivers, lakes and swamps, and 0.001% of water is in clouds (formed from suspended ice particles and liquid water). The most of the earth's water is saline, which is unsuitable for agriculture and drinking. The share of fresh water resources, which is the object of economic assessment, is about 2.5 %, in particular 98.8 % of this water amount glaciers and groundwater. Less than 0.3 % of all fresh water is contained in the rivers, lakes, and the atmosphere.

Despite the fact that other mineral resources are not recovered after mining, water in the form of precipitation can be reused. However, the development of civilization and the global development as a whole has predetermined the continuous growth of water consumption. Since the 1970 of the last century,a discrepancy between the water supply and demand has taken place in many areas, leading to numerous discussions on whether water has the properties of a commodity or not.

Since the ancient times, the water resources under a sufficient amount is a public good and is not subject to economic assessment. However, population increase combined with the climate change, water scarcity, has exacerbated the issues of efficient allocation of water resources and equal respect for the interests of all water users.

Fresh water has always been of great importance and is a key factor in the development of states and civilizations from ancient times to the present day. The value of water is the ratio (compromise) between the subjects of water use and water consumption expressed in a value indicator. The measure for the water cost is a person. Society is the final consumer of all the goods produced, voting with its preferences, society determines (fix) the value, that is, the cost of water.

The practice of paying for water from natural sources, which is carried out by almost all the countries, contributes to the efficiency and rational use of water resources and at the same time contributes to the preservation of unique natural objects. The experience of applying the national systems of paid water use in different countries around the globe with different levels of cost indicators and economic relations has shown that the main sources of social tension are not the high nature of tariffs for fresh water, but its lack (deficit).

Country (city).. Total renewable water resources (km3) The cost of water supply and sanitation, US $ per 1m3
Denmark (Aarhus)) 6,00  9,70
Belgium (Ghent)) 18,30  7,54
Norway (Oslo)) 382,00  7,09
Germany (Berlin)) 154,00  6,60
Australia (Sydney)) 492,00  5,93
Canada (Ottawa)) 2 902,00  5,62
Finland (Helsinki) 110,00  5,09
Israel (Tel Aviv) 1,78  4,80
France (Paris)) 211,00  4,56
United Kingdom (Paris)) United 147,00  4,27
States (New York)) 3 069,00  2,98
Russia (Moscow) 4 508,00  1,41
UAE / Dubai) 0,15  1,36
China (Beijing) 2840,00  0,62
Ukraine (Kiev)) 139,60  0,53
Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) 884,10  0,19
India (Bangalore) 1911,00  0,16
Belarus (Minsk)) 57,9  0,14
Nepal (Kathmandu) 210,20  0,09
Nigeria (Lagos)) 286,20  0,06
Uzbekistan (Tashkent) 48.87  0,05
Syria (Damascus) 16,80  0,05
Egypt (Cairo)) 57,30  0,05
Cuba (Havana)) 38.12  0,04
Pakistan (Karachi)) 246,80  0,04
Indonesia (Jakarta)) 2 019,00  0,03
Saudi Arabia (Riyadh)) 2,40  0,03
Turkmenistan (Ashgabat) Kyrgyzstan 24.77  0,00
(250 liters per day per person)
Kyrgyzstan 50 0,079
Tajikistan 64 0,13
Kazakhstan 56,5 0,69
Uzbekistan 48,87 0,013


Our country with its geographical and climatic factors is characterized by a lack of fresh water, which negatively affect the sustainable development of Kazakhstan. Despite the fact that our water intake from natural sources is not free, however, its extremely low level leads to inefficient use of water resources by end users and significant water losses on the part of water supply organizations and water consumers as well.

Due to the low cost of water resources, there are high risks of water shortages, which can have the most negative impact on the economic, environmental and social sphere. Indeed, for example, with the increase of water consumption in the Ile-Alakol water basin, every fourth year may be water stressed, which will lead to shallowing and loss of such a pearl of nature as the Lake Balkhash. Therefore, it is urgently necessary to change the attitude to water, for its careful and economic use. Subsequently, the both properly defined and economically justified charge for water resources will facilitate to solve this issue.