David Zetland is a senior water economist in the Department of Environmental Economics and Natural Resources at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, where he is working on a European Union–funded project, Evaluating Economic Policy Instruments for Sustainable Water Management in Europe. He is the author of “The End of Abundance: Economic Solutions to Water Scarcity” (2011).

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In the summer of 2009, we were treated to a bicoastal spectacle of conflicts over water in the western and southeastern United States. Farmers in California were on television, complaining about a “congressionally induced” drought; the mayor of Atlanta was arguing that Florida’s wetlands were taking water his citizens needed to survive. In …

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