October 18, 2013--We need water markets if we're to solve the global water crisis (Forest Trends)

Four years ago, Kenyan farmer Chege Mwangi was a desperate man. Climate change had thrown off the timing of his harvests, and torrential rains were washing his topsoil into Lake Naivasha -- where flower-growers were suffering, too. Sediment from thousands of farms like Mwangi's was choking off their supply of fresh water. It was an ugly situation -- bad for the farmers, bad for the flower-growers, and bad for nature. Fortunately for Mwangi and poor farmers around the world, there is a third approach -- one that is quietly delivering water, autonomy, and security to people around the world as the focus shifts away from simply providing drinking water and sanitation to a more holistic approach that takes into account the ecosystem that supports water quality and quantity, as well as the economic factors that impact that quality. In Mwangi's case, for example, the flower growers along the shores of Lake Naivasha helped him and his neighbors develop sustainable farming practices that reduced runoff and boosted yields -- and at a cost of just $20 per farmer. It's not charity, but it's not privatization, either. It's somewhere in the middle, and it's a simple model that's being implemented in African cities like Dar es Salaam, Latin American cities like Heredia, Costa Rica, and North American cities like Denver. Our research shows that more than $8 billion was spent on these sorts of programs in 2011 alone -- generating benefits many times that amount.

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