Environmental Concerns in Water Pricing Policy: an Application of Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA)
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Water management is subject to conflicting economic and environmental objectives, and policymakers require a clear overview of the different outcomes derived from different water management options. The aim of this paper is to assess the efficiency of several irrigation water pricing policies with a special focus on their environmental implications. Irrigation is chosen here as a crucial sector of water use in large parts of southern Europe, where pressure on the resource is expected to increase due to climate change. A novel methodological approach for performing an ex ante analysis of alternative water pricing policies is proposed here, where environmental and technical performance are simultaneously considered. This approach takes place in two steps: the first is a simulation of alternative water policies through a mathematical programming model, and the second is the analysis of results by using the Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) technique. A case study is applied in Puglia (southern Italy), where irrigation is the primary factor of strategic relevance for policymakers regarding water management. Our results show that on the one hand alternative pricing policies perform similarly in terms of technical efficiency and environmental efficiency. On the other hand, inefficiency appears to depend mainly on technical rather than environmental concerns. According to the assigned weights, through the DEA technique, the highest improvement for inefficient options may be obtained by better labour use. We conclude that the proposed approach may be a comprehensive and versatile framework for water policy analysis, offering a tool for supporting the decision-making process.