Does anybody like water restrictions? Some observations in Australian urban communities*

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Abstract

Mandatory water restrictions continue to be the immediate response to urban water shortages in most major cities in southern Australia. Whilst generally rejected by economists on efficiency grounds, restrictions and the enforcement regimes used to invoke them are, nonetheless, viewed by some in the community as a positive way of dealing with water scarcity. Given the likelihood that urban water restrictions will persist for some time, there is value in understanding householders' attitudes in this context. The impact and acceptability of differing approaches to enforcement is of particular interest, because this has wider ramifications for the administration of policy generally. This paper uses the results from a choice experiment to investigate the interplay between different components of a water restriction regime. In stark contrast to prevailing views that focus on the community benefits from ‘sharing the pain of water shortages’, results point to the significance of being able to inform on ones neighbours as a component of the enforcement regimes.

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