Markets - Water Markets: Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin and the US Southwest
Gary D. Libecap
R. Quentin Grafton
Worldwide supplies of fresh water are increasingly scarce relative to demand. This problem is likely to be exacerbated with climate change. In this paper, we examine water markets in both Australia’s Murray Darling Basin and the western US and their prospects for addressing water scarcity. The two regions share a number of important similarities including: climate variability that requires investment in reservoirs to make water available in low-rainfall periods; the need for internal and cross-border (state) water management; an historical major allocation of water to irrigators; increasing competition among different uses (agricultural, environmental and recreational in situ uses, urban demand); and the potential for water trading to more smoothly and quickly allocate water across these competing uses. A comparison of the two regions provides important insights about how economic factors can encourage more efficient water allocation, market structure and government regulation.
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