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Water Markets: Australia's Murray-Darling Basin and the US Southwest

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  • R. Quentin Grafton
  • Clay Landry
  • Gary D. Libecap
  • Robert J. O'Brien

Abstract

Fresh water supplies increasingly are under stress in many parts of the world due to rising populations, higher per capita incomes and corresponding consumption, greater environmental concerns, and the effects of climate change. Water rights and markets are part of the institutional menus for responding to these problems. We examine water markets in both Australia’s MDB 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. We show that rights are more clearly defined and trading more common in Australia than appears to be the case in the western U.S. Longer periods of scarcity and hence, higher water values may explain this difference.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15797.

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Date of creation: Mar 2010
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Publication status: published as A Comparative Assessment of Water Markets: Insights from the Murray-Darling Basin of Australia and the Western US” by R. Quentin Grafton, Gary D. Libecap ,Eric C. Edwards, R.J. (Bob) O’Brien, Clay Landry, Water Policy 2012.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15797

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  1. R. Quentin Grafton & Michael B. Ward, 2008. "Prices versus Rationing: Marshallian Surplus and Mandatory Water Restrictions," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 84(s1), pages S57-S65, 09.
  2. Johnson, Ronald N & Gisser, Micha, 1981. "The Definition of a Surface Water Right and Transferability," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 273-88, October.
  3. Jedidiah Brewer & Gary D. Libecap, 2009. "Property rights and the public trust doctrine in environmental protection and natural resource conservation ," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 53(1), pages 1-17, 01.
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Cited by:
  1. Quentin Grafton & Clay Landry & Gary Libecap & Sam McGlennon & Bob O'Brien, 2010. "An Integrated Assessment of Water Markets: Australia, Chile, China, South Africa and the USA," Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy Papers, Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University 1009, Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

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