Water scarcity is a critical environmental issue worldwide, especially in arid and semiarid regions. In those regions, climate change projections suggest further reductions in freshwater supplies and increases of the recurrence, longevity and intensity of drought events. At present, one important question for policy debate is the identification of water policies that could address the mounting water scarcity problems. Suitable policies should improve economic efficiency, achieve environmental sustainability, and meet equity needs. This paper develops and applies an integrated hydro-economic model that links hydrological, economic and environmental elements to such issues. The model is used to conduct a direct comparison of water markets, water pricing and institutional cooperation, based on their economic, environmental and equity outcomes. The analysis is performed in the Jucar Basin of Spain, which is a good natural experiment for studying water scarcity and climate change policies. Results indicate that both institutional and water market policies are high performing instruments to limit the economic damage costs of droughts, achieving almost the same social benefits. However, the environmental effects of water markets are worrying. Another important finding is that water pricing is a poor policy option not only in terms of private and environmental benefits but also in terms of equity.
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