Economic Impacts of Water Scarcity under Diverse Water Salinities

Ruslana Palatnik


Exploitation of alternative water sources is expected to grow in the decades to come in water-stressed countries with fast population growth, especially in regions where a further decline of natural freshwater availability is expected due to climate change. Increasing utilization of non-freshwater usually leads to salinity build-up in fields and water sources as well as accumulation of various pollutants - both having a considerable impact on the suitability of non-freshwater for irrigation due to constraints associated with crop salinity tolerance and food safety regulations.

We developed a linked CGE - farm-level model of a water economy with representation for multiple water types characterized by different qualities. We employ the model to assess the impact of water shortage on the Israeli economy, where a steadily growing water scarcity is leading to an increasing utilization of alternative water sources. We simulate water shortage scenarios based on the Long Term National Master Plan for The Water Economy developed by the Israeli Water Authority (IWA).

The linked CGE - farm-level model provides a mechanism for estimating the Constant Elasticity of Substitution (CES) rates between different irrigation water types used in agriculture. This mechanism accounts for the effects of salinity on yields and takes into consideration food safety regulations for irrigating crops with treated wastewater. We demonstrate that, in contrast to previous studies, CES rates between different water types are not identical and generally lower than previously assumed – differences that can be attributed to the constraints associated with crop salinity tolerance and food safety regulations.

Our results reveal that water shortage can lead to a significant decline of Israel’s GDP, where a considerable part of the decline is attributed to the decrease in agricultural outputs. The magnitude of the impact depends on the underlying assumptions regarding future desalination capacity. To further study the effect of desalination, we run simulations under various desalination levels and examine its impact on the GDP. We also examine the extent to which the impact of water shortage is sensitive to CES rates between different irrigation water types.

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Authors: Zvi Baum1, Ruslana Rachel Palatnik1,2, Iddo Kan1,3, Mickey Rapaport-Rom1, Mordechai Shechter1

Affiliations: 1 NRERC-Natural Resource and Environmental Research Center, University of Haifa, Israel; 2 The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, Israel; 3 The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment; The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

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