Water Allocation in Rivers under Pressure

Water Allocation in Rivers under Pressure

Water Trading, Transaction Costs and Transboundary Governance in the Western US and Australia

Dustin Evan Garrick

Water trading and river basin governance have been upheld as institutional blueprints for allocating water for people, agriculture and ecosystems in a changing climate. Progress has been uneven, however, despite multiple decades of institutional reforms in river basins under pressure from demand, development and droughts. This timely book examines the evolution and performance of water allocation reforms in the Colorado, Columbia and Murray–Darling Rivers. It draws on concepts and evidence about property rights, transaction costs and institutional change to generate lessons about the factors contributing to more adaptive and sustainable water allocation.

Chapter 6: Systemic risks, polycentric responses: performance, principles and practices

Dustin Evan Garrick

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics, environmental governance and regulation, water


Even though federal and state policy fosters the export of agricultural commodities, Western water law generally inhibits trade in the water used to grow the commodities. States should open up the market by eliminating or streamlining legal barriers that effectively block transfers of water. . .The Western water crisis is basically an imbalance between supply and demand. Opening water resources to trade has the potential to reduce the imbalance by rewarding water conservation, ensuring that water goes toward the highest-value and most-efficient uses, and providing the financial tools to mitigate fluctuations in water availability. (Robert Glennon and Gary Libecap, 2014, Wall Street Journal)

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