'The economic impacts of large dams: a comparative analysis of the Nile and Colorado Rivers' with Ken Strzepek, Kevin Wheeler & Jim Hall

Past Event

06 June 2022, 5:00pm - 6:30pm

Online & Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

Event Recording:

The Colorado River and the Nile River are both undergoing dramatic transformations.

Throughout the last century and continuing today, major infrastructure developments have played a pivotal role in shaping the regional economies, livelihoods and environmental conditions of these two critical transboundary river systems. Our growing dependencies on these finite renewable resources are driven by population growth and economic expansion, but are being increasingly challenged by water scarcity that is partly driven by climate change.

In this talk Professor Kenneth Strzepek, Dr Kevin Wheeler & Professor Jim Hall (Chair) will discuss the following two parts:

  • A comparison of the hydrology, infrastructure, institutions, and hydro-politics of these two transboundary river basins. The precarious role of the Glen Canyon and Hoover dams on the management of the Colorado River for beneficial use in the Southwest USA and Northern Mexico will be presented. This will be contrasted with the historic role of the High Aswan Dam on water management in Egypt and extensive plans for major water infrastructure expansion across the Upper Nile Basin;
  • An analysis of the direct economic benefits and costs of the water resource development in the two basins will be presented as well as environmental and social impacts to estimate the classic benefit-cost ratio. Finally, an economy-wide assessment of the impacts of the major water infrastructure development in the Colorado and Nile basins on local, national and regional economic growth will be presented.

Kenneth Strzepek 300x300

Professor Kenneth Strzepek
Research Scientist, Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Kenneth Strzepek is a Research Scientist at MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and MIT Jamel Water and Food System Lab, Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, and Professor Emeritus of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado. He was an Adjunct Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Visiting Professor at MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, Tufts University, University of Pretoria and Colorado State University.

Professor Strzepek has spent over 45 years as a researcher and practitioner at the nexus of engineering, environmental and economics systems. He has worked for a range of national governments as well as the United Nations, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, USEPA, and USAID. He was a lead author on the Second and Fifth IPCC Assessments, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the World Water Vision, and the UN World Water Development Report. He was the USAID Scientific Liaison Officer on Water and Climate Change to the CGIAR.

He was an Arthur Maass-Gilbert White Fellow at the Institute for Water Resources of the US Army Corps of Engineer and received the Department of Interior Citizen’s Award for Innovation in the applications of Systems Analysis to Water Management, is a co-recipient of the Zayed International Prize for the Environment and as a lead author for IPCC he is a co-recipient of the 2007 Noble Peace Prize.

He graduated from MIT with a S.B. in 1975, a S.M. in 1977, and a Ph.D. in Water Resource Engineering, as well as M.A. in Economics in 2004 from the University of Colorado and is a PhD Candidate in Economics at the University of Hamburg.

Kevin Wheeler Small File

Dr Kevin Wheeler
Senior Research Fellow, Environmental Change Institute

Kevin Wheeler PhD, P.E. is a Senior Research Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute, an Oxford Martin Fellow on The Oxford Martin Programme on Transboundary Resource Management and Principal of Water Balance Consulting

His research and experience focus on the shared management of transboundary watercourses, emphasizing multi-stakeholder negotiations and cooperative planning to manage environmental risks through multi-objective infrastructure. His methods involve collaborative risk-based modelling, particularly when facing deep uncertainties of future climate changes and growing pressures on natural resources. Since 2000, Dr. Wheeler has worked on multiple issues surrounding the Colorado River for a variety of governmental, non-governmental and private stakeholders. Most notably he contributed substantively to Interim Surplus and Shortage agreements between the seven Basin States and to the successful negotiations between the USA and Mexico in 2012 on jointly managing droughts and shortages.

Since 2012, Dr Wheeler has extended this approach to the Nile River Basin by exploring cooperative development pathways among the co-riparian countries of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Alongside regional academic and governmental partners, he examines alternative cooperative management strategies for new and existing infrastructure to secure water supplies, meet growing energy demands, and support environmental needs.

Dr Wheeler is an associate editor for the journal Water International, an advisor for the Future of the Colorado River Project, and a former Research Fellow in Sustainability Science at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Jim Hall 2019

Professor Jim Hall
Director, Oxford Martin Programme on Transboundary Resource Management

Professor Jim Hall FREng is Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks in the School of Geography and the Environment, Lead Researcher on the Oxford Martin Programme on Transboundary Resource Management, a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Engineering Science and fellow of Linacre College. He was director of the Environmental Change Institute from 2011 to September 2018.

Prof Hall is internationally recognised for his research on risk analysis and decision making under uncertainty for water resource systems, flood and coastal risk management, infrastructure systems and adaptation to climate change.

Professor Hall is a member of the Prime Minister's Council for Science and Technology and is Expert Advisor to the National Infrastructure Commission. He is Chair of the Science Advisory Committee of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). He was a member of the UK independent Committee on Climate Change Adaptation from 2009 to 2019.

Prof Hall’s group in the University of Oxford is at the forefront of risk analysis of climatic extremes and their impacts on infrastructure networks and economic systems, from local to global scales. He led the development of the National Infrastructure Systems Model (NISMOD), which was used for the UK’s first National Infrastructure Assessment and for analysis of the resilience of energy, transport, digital and water networks in Great Britain. Prof Hall conceived of, and now chairs, the UK’s Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI). His systems analysis methods have been applied worldwide, including in Argentina, China, Curacao, St Lucia, Tanzania and Vietnam. He published four books, including, The Future of National Infrastructure: A System-of-Systems Approach, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. He is editor of the journal Water Resources Research.