Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2013 HaiPhong, Vietnam, 2013

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Deborah Lynn Jarvie


As the world’s population approaches the 9 billion mark (United Nations, 2011) and the demand for energy increases, increased pressure is being placed on freshwater supplies in the earth’s ‘water-energy’ systems.  This paper, based on research for the completion of my doctoral dissertation, studies a number of concerns regarding the contamination and depletion of freshwater aquifers as the energy sector continues to grow.  To address these concerns, this paper proposes that environmental tax policy, and in particular, ecological tax incentives for aquifer protection – within a socio-ecological systems framework - can play an important role in protecting potable water sources by promoting long-term sustainable practices. 

Daly (1996) discusses fifteen principles on sustainable development.  Though nearly twenty years old, these principles are as relevant today as they were when they were written – if not more so, now.  The principles are integrated into a ‘regulatory framework for the protection of aquifers’ in this study, in an attempt to link existing ideas regarding ‘sustainable development’ with new ideas formulated using a systems approach.

The interactions between energy production/usage and potable water supplies is depicted in the paper through a series of systems archetypes, wherein balancing loops are identified as points of leverage for the introduction of ecological tax incentives for aquifer protection.  These points of leverage are then identified within the larger framework, where they will later be tested using primary data from various stakeholders (using a grounded theory methodology) in order to discover a theory and themes on the use of ecological tax incentives for water protection.

The study takes an interdisciplinary approach to deal with the multi-faceted dilemma facing the water-energy nexus, and the paper explores the situation using theories of complex open-systems, e.g. (Meadows, 2008; Senge, 1990; Sterman, 2000; von Bertalanffy, 1972), environmental regulations and tax policy, e.g. (Baumol & Oates, 1988; DiJohn, 2010; Fullerton, 2001; Gunningham & Grabosky, 2004; Määttä, 2006; Pigou, 2002; Tinbergen, 1952), and resilience, e.g. (Arrow et al., 1995; Berkes & Folke, 1998; Gunderson, Allen, & Holling, 2010; Holling, 1973; Walker & Salt, 2006).  The paper then concludes with the suggestion that economic/environmental policies based on systems thinking will offer a more sustainable and resilient future for the earth’s freshwater supplies.   

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