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Water pricing in French water users’ associations

Author(s): A national overview and a selection of in-depth reform analysis in Lot department
Congress: 2008
Sébastien LOUBIER, Marielle MONTGINOUL, Guy GLEYSES and Patrice GARIN (UMR G-EAU) Corresponding author Dr. S. Loubier Tel +33 4 67 04 63 68 - Fax +33 4 67 63 57 95 Cemagref, 361 rue Jean-François Breton – BP 5095 – 3

Keyword(s): water pricing, water user association, irrigation, equity, justice, maintenance
AbstractWater pricing is often presented as a tool able to meet several objectives. It can reduce quantitative and / or qualitative environmental impacts, facilitate scarce water sharing, insure sustainability of infrastructures, facilitate public or private donors’ disengagement, guide cropping systems, improve justice or equity among users or just balance the budget. However, pricing nearly never allow to purse simultaneously all these objectives. This article focuses on the definition of water pricing systems within French water user associations (ASAs) which represent half of the area irrigated from collective schemes. The objective of this article is to analyse the diversity of water pricing in ASAs according to their main characteristics: canal or pressurized systems, age of the network, main cropping systems and to analyse some water pricing reforms in paying a special attention to justice and equity considerations as well as agronomic, economic and financial impacts on farmers and on the manager (ASA). Several methods have been implemented. To collect information regarding water pricing diversity, two large surveys (postal and face to face) were realised. The in-depth water pricing reform analysis is based on individual semi-structured interviews with few irrigators and ASA’s representatives, made in three ASAs of Lot department (administrative unit). Beyond equity and justice analysis, we mobilize simple microeconomics models to assess economic impacts in terms of income changes and operation and maintenance expenditures. The surveys’ analyses highlight an important diversity in water pricing structures: canal systems always opt for flat tariffs. These flat tariffs are based either on irrigated or irrigable area, water discharge, water volume, crop’s type, outlets’ number, land use (agriculture, fallow or residential), or on a combination of previous ones. Pressurized systems are mainly based on a two part tariff, with the same diversity concerning the fixed part. These surveys also highlight frequent changes in water pricing structure depending on the place of ASAs within their life cycle. The in-depth analysis of the three ASAs confirms this tendency since all of them have decided to reform their pricing structure at a key moment of their life cycle, in particular when borrowings are reimbursed or after a degradation of the service quality. We finally highlight that equity and justice notions are used differently within each ASA and that water pricing reforms lead to important differences in terms of environmental, financial and economic effectiveness. Our conclusion is that despite the rigidity of their legal framework, ASAs are able to modernize their internal rules and their water pricing level and structure. We also highlight that a water pricing reform can have significant environmental impacts (consumption reduction) and / or economic ones both from the farmers and the manager point of view and that the discussion process during the reform and then the results are directly linked to the way water users have mobilized equity and justice notions.
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