IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.


A quick housekeeping item, if you haven’t seen. Chris migrated his site to new servers so had some downtime this week, but all the content should be back up by now. They’re still getting SSL set up so your browser may warn you that you’re not reading in https yet (so don’t enter your credit card information into the comments till that’s squared away).

“It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero,” the city’s media office said in a statement. Many of the city’s four million residents are “callously” using too much water, it said.

  • Egypt and Ethiopia are also fighting over the Nile, which Ethiopia dams for electricity, but supplies almost all of Egypt’s water.
    • These kinds of disputes happen in the U.S. as well, with Florida and Georgia going to the Supreme Court a few weeks ago, and a Wisconsin city getting in trouble with five Great Lakes states over taking water from Lake Michigan. And of course everybody in the West and the Colorado River.
      • Today on Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen points to Israel, a mostly desert country, which managed to solve its water crisis a number of years ago with a combination of technology and policies. Cowen asks whether California is listening, which it is, learning from Israeli water officials. But one warned about something we see a lot in development: people want to flock to flashy technology solutions like desalinating ocean water, but the biggest solutions are usually very boring and old-fashioned:

Desalination is seen by some as a magic bullet, the shield that saved Israel from the whims of nature. But Avrahm Tenne, head of desalination at Israel’s water authority, says surpluses don’t start with huge desalination plants.

“Desalinization is not the first step that you are doing. It’s probably the last step,” Tenne says.

Israel has invested in repairing leaking pipes, run ad campaigns promoting conservation and built a separate water industry around recycling sewage water. Eighty-six percent is now recycled, he said, providing farmers half of their annual need.


  • A friend who works in water policy is also a bit down on how hard it is to get people to pay attention to smart water policy here – much like Cape Town officials complain, it seems people don’t care until there’s a crisis.
      • Side note: when I was shopping for toilets, I was dumbfounded by how annoying it is to get a dual-flush toilet in the U.S. They’re available, usually at the same cost, but typically not displayed in stores. An incredibly easy win in the millions of gallons would be just having stores display them so people know they’re an option.

And Namibia is trying to cash in on Trump’s Africa remarks (language warning for the first video below):