Diverging from the economic water valuation paradigm: emergent valuation approaches from an omnicentric perspective

Ms Liz Charpleix1

1University Of New England, Armidale, Australia


Problems relating to water, including scarcity, equitable access for humans and non-humans, pollution and environmental concerns, are globally prevalent in the Anthropocene period. The dominant paradigm for valuing water is economic, whereby water is treated as a commodity and valued in financial terms, to be bought and sold like any other good or service. The proliferation and exacerbation of water issues is arguably linked to this resourcist valuation approach, which is incapable of fully appreciating the wide range of water’s non-economic values.

This presentation provides an insight into a number of alternative valuation approaches. These include economic hybrids, legally plural approaches and those that recognise the agency of water in socio-natural relationships, a feature that is generally invisible in anthropocentric value systems. Such emergent approaches diverge from the hegemony of the developed world’s economic paradigm and converge in search of innovative possibilities. They draw on existing Indigenous cultural practices, integrate alternative legal systems into the dominant system and observe the world from an omnicentric (‘for all things’) instead of anthropocentric (‘for humans’) perspective. The 2017 recognition of the legal personhood of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s Whanganui River will be discussed as an example of convergence beyond anthropocentric valuation approaches towards omnicentric opportunities.


Liz Charpleix is a PhD candidate at UNE in Armidale, NSW. Her research explores how water is and can be valued, and how non-economic valuation systems may offer better outcomes for humans and non-humans. She has pursued her water research in Delft and Vienna, as well as in Aotearoa/New Zealand, where the groundbreaking recognition of the legal personhood of the Whanganui River was enacted in 2017.

She holds the degrees of BA (Hons) and BFA from the University of Tasmania and a Master of Commerce (Accounting) from UNE. She lives off the grid in southern Tasmania.

Email: liz@iris42.com.au

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