Water is an essential element for the existence and persistence of life on Earth. It is fundamental for human lives, ecosystems, and industry; hence it is necessary for the provision (clearly connected to the quality and quantity of the available resource) of services, such as hydroelectricity generation and goods like drinking and irrigation water. However, water resources are scarce and bulky; indeed, it is estimated that the Earth contains nearly 1400 million km3 of water of which only 35 million km3 of freshwater. The big amount of water contained in ice caps, glaciers and the depths of the Earth is not available, hence suitable freshwater comes from rainfall generated from the hydrological circle. The rainfall annual average amounts to 119 000 km3 of which 74 000 km3 returns to the atmosphere due to evaporation. It is also estimated that the available quantity at affordable costs goes from 9 000 km3 to a maximum of 14 000 km3 of the remaining 45 000 km3; like a teaspoon compared to a bathtub. Furthermore, with regards to the bulky aspect; it stands out how water resources value per unit of weight is usually low, hence it is not, in terms of volume, cost-effective the conveyance of the resources except when their marginal volume is relatively high. This article claims to start the assessment of water resources from a general perspective to a particular one. Starting from an analysis of environmental valuation issues, hence the concept of functional value diversity, whose aim is overcoming the valuations based only on the intrinsic value of water resources, rather focusing on the flow of goods and services connected to water resources, and all their flow across environmental sectors. Furthermore, observing the estimation of a population of about 9.7 billion people in 2050; a global water demand whose increase is expected to 20 to 30% above the current level of actual use, (mainly due to rising demand in the industrial and domestic sector) and the evidence that population and water resources are distributed in a non-uniform way on the planet, the actual situation is described and this is why the Total Economic Value of water resources must be assessed and considered. For this very reason; and also due to the fact that environmental stresses must be accounted in market-prices, the aim of the article is drawing up different approaches to the valuation of water resources to then illustrate some new approaches should be introduced and new perspectives based on some present population and development trends.
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Alessandro Zeoli, Sapienza Università di Roma – Vision & Global Trends. International Institute for Global Analyses
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