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Using Price Elasticities of Water Demand to Inform Policy
Annual Review of Resource Economics  (IF5.184),  Pub Date : 2021-10-05, DOI: 10.1146/annurev-resource-110220-104549
Ellen M. Bruno, Katrina Jessoe

This survey distills recent work on the price elasticity of demand for urban and agricultural water and outlines how it can inform the design of market-based approaches to manage increasingly scarce water resources. We offer a brief description of the water sector, including the primary users, main water sources, and market failures in the allocation and use of surface water and groundwater. A review of recent empirical research on the price elasticities of agricultural and urban water demand shows the progress made in our understanding of user response to prices and reveals substantial heterogeneity in the price response. We apply what we have learned about elasticities to surface water markets and price-based groundwater management. Heterogeneity in price elasticities suggests that water transfers may lead to large efficiency gains, but that their magnitude is site specific. Groundwater pricing may cost-effectively manage groundwater and fund the development of alternative water supplies, but heterogeneity in elasticity estimates highlights that the conservation and revenue generated are basin specific.