Why Enough is Never Enough: The Societal Determinants of River Basin 'Overbuilding'

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



"Manifestations of water scarcity seem to be increasingly frequent, even in regions with temperate climates and endowed with good water resources. Population growth, poor management, climatic change or vagaries of weather, the growing needs of cities or the allegedly excessive share of water used in agriculture, are some of the reasons commonly cited as the roots of water scarcity. This paper argues that several 'bad good reasons' and mechanisms are at work to generate 'overbuilt basins,' whereby the development of infrastructural resources invariably tends to outstrip available resources. Despite its crucial importance and ubiquity, this phenomenon is often overlooked. Eight main drivers of basin overbuilding are proposed and discussed. They draw our attention to the artificial nature of water scarcity and to how project planning may (and tend to) acquire a life of its own, overriding criteria of hydrologic or economic relevance. Overextended facilities beget water shortages and water shortages call for more water resources development that will come with more diversions and uses. Such processes have deep implications for policymaking and it is argued that unpacking the reasons why 'enough is never enough,' that is, why water resources become overcommitted and river basins overbuilt, is critical if these mechanisms are to be countered."



scarcity, water management, river basins, social behavior, development, urban affairs, infrastructure