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Breve reflexión sobre el valor del agua: paradoja del diamante y el agua | Agua-Info: Información y Conocimiento del Agua y el Ambiente para el Desarrollo

Agua-Info: Información y Conocimiento del Agua y el Ambiente para el Desarrollo

proyecto@aguainfo.net, marco.morales75@gmail.com

« Escasez de agua y revueltas populares mayas en plena ciudad de Guatemala

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Breve reflexión sobre el valor del agua: paradoja del diamante y el agua

Por: Dr. Eduardo Álvarez Mendiola

Beber agua ha sido siempre la primera necesidad del ser humano. Esto significa que el agua para el consumo ha tenido siempre las características económicas de utilidad y valor, conceptos ambos sutiles y difíciles de cuantificar en términos monetarios. Desde tiempo inmemorial los asentamientos humanos han tenido lugar en torno a los ríos o fuentes. El agua se tomaba directamente de la corriente y con arreglo a la nomenclatura que hoy suele utilizarse para la gestión de las aguas, se dice que el uso de abastecimiento nació como uso de agua fluyente, es decir como uso del agua que de manera natural podía aprovecharse (Heras, 2000). Puede entonces afirmarse que el agua es un recurso natural indispensable para la vida y el desarrollo de la actividad humana en la Tierra. Desde este punto de vista, el agua posee un valor intrínseco que es difícil de calcular en términos monetarios, dado que se asume que es un bien de utilidad pública.

Durante los siglos pasados y presente, se ha tendido a valorar el agua como un simple recurso productivo, relegando al olvido otros muchos valores de carácter ambiental y social que posee, y que hoy es ineludible considerar. Sin embargo, aunque resulte sorprendente, este enfoque raramente se ha visto avalado por un análisis económico (Arrojo, 1999). En el siglo XVIII, el economista Adam Smith planteó la paradoja del diamante y el agua. Esta paradoja considera que a pesar de que el agua es tan útil para los seres humanos y esencial para el sustento de la vida, sin embargo, es menospreciada y vendida excesivamente barata. Contradictoriamente, los diamantes, cuya utilidad real para la vida es nula y sirven únicamente en su condición de joya, se venden a precios altísimos.

El razonamiento continúa así: las personas pueden sobrevivir sin diamantes, pero si estuvieran en medio del desierto durante tres días, valorarían un vaso de agua más que todos los diamantes del mundo. Lo que ocurre es que los diamantes tienen precios elevados debido a una cierta utilidad (o satisfacción) marginal alta que se relaciona con su limitada reserva. La utilidad total del agua es mayor, pero tiene una utilidad marginal inferior debido a su abundancia relativa.

El agua, como elemento fundamental del medio ambiente posee tanto valor inmanente (que pertenece a su esencia) como intrínseco o dado por los usuarios del recurso (Azqueta, 2007, p.70). Pero la valoración del recurso hídrico puede ser vista a través de la denominada Ética Antropocéntrica. Los usuarios o bien los gestores del agua son los que asignan valor al agua en función del uso que ésta tenga y el bienestar que otorgue a otros usuarios. Con esta perspectiva, el agua puede tener diferentes valores, además del inmanente y del intrínseco: de uso y de no uso. El valor de uso tiene que ver con el destino que tiene el recurso hídrico como elemento útil para el bienestar humano; el valor de no uso no está ligado a la utilización del agua y considera su valor por el mero hecho de existencia del recurso (Azqueta, 2007, p. 84-87). Para esta última forma de valoración, puede ser que existan personas que otorguen valor al agua y que se ven afectadas por lo que ocurra con ese recurso (no son usuarias del mismo), y lo valoran positivamente por el mero hecho de existir. Su desaparición supondría una pérdida.

Un factor importante en la valoración del recurso hídrico tiene que ver con la disponibilidad y el acceso al mismo. Es obvio que un grupo social en donde la disponibilidad y el acceso al agua fuesen ilimitadas, el concepto de valor del agua carecería de sentido; sin embargo, si ese mismo grupo social tuviera dificultades de diferente índole en cuanto a disponibilidad y acceso al recurso hídrico, el concepto de valor del recurso si tendría mucho más sentido. Es lógico pensar que entre menor sea la disponibilidad y menor sea la posibilidad de acceder al recurso, será mayor la importancia que se le dé al agua y, por ende, tendrá mayor significado el valor que se le dé al recurso.

REFERENCIAS BIBLIOGRÁFICAS

- Arrojo, A., 1999. El valor económico del agua. Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals, 45-46.

- Azqueta, D., 2007. Introducción a la Economía Ambiental. McGraw Hill/Interamericana de España; 2ª edición. 456 pp. Aravaca, Madrid.

- Heras, G., 2000. Particularidades económicas del agua en España. 6ª Conferencia internacional del seminario permanente “ciencia y tecnología del agua” Economía del agua: hacia una mejor gestión de los recursos hídricos.

ACERCA DEL DR. ÁLVAREZ MENDIOLA: Doctor en Ingeniería del Agua y Medio Ambiente y especialidad en intensificación en análisis de sistemas de recursos hídricos por la Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, España, con maestría en hidráulica por la Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro y licenciatura en Ingeniería Civil por la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Su experiencia durante 19 años en el ámbito de docencia e investigación en la Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, México, le ha permitido especializarse en hidráulica, geohidrología, redes de agua potable, gestión de cuencas hidrográficas, economía de los recursos hídricos. Como investigador en el Instituto de Ingeniería del Agua y Medio Ambiente de Valencia, España, colaboró en la mejora del módulo EcoWin para la valoración económica de los Sistemas de Recursos Hídricos a escala de cuenca. Actualmente es profesor-investigador en la Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, México y miembro del Grupo Colegiado en Bioética por la misma universidad.

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April 10, 2011 - 1:57 AM
3 comments »
  • Marco Morales

    April 10, 2011 | 2:01 AM

    gracias por el aporte Eduardo!

  • Emily

    April 11, 2011 | 4:09 AM

    el ser humano puede hacer planes y presupuestos sobre cosas materiales pero jamas hace plan de ahorro de agua (Guatemala primera en la lista), a pesar que todos conocen desde nivel primario que el agua es un “elemento esencial para la vida humana”. Palabras al viento. Que tenemos que hacer para que el paradigma grabado en la cabecita se rompa y entienda que el agua no sera eterna usandola como lo hacemos? Muchas campanas se han creado para ejecutarse a nivel personal o empresa privada, pero este cambio no sera de peso hasta que a nivel gobierno se ejecute un programa de cambio de impacto ecologico, social, cultural y economico. La fuerza divida no gana ninguna guerra.

  • Marco Morales

    April 11, 2011 | 4:21 AM

    Buen comentario! Gracias! ¿Recuerdas las últimas dos películas que vimos en las que los ejércitos de la China y de la antigua Jerusalén y mundo árabe tenían como insumo PRINCIPAL de sus guerras el acceso al agua?
    Creo que ese es un buen ejemplo que abre los ojos… pero mientras haya la gente se dormirá en sus laureles

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