Published in cooperation with the Public Policy Institute of California
Socially efficient water use does not generally coincide with private decisions in the real world, however. Examples of mechanisms designed to incentivize efficient behavior are drawn from agricultural water use, municipal water regulation, and externalities linked to water resources. Water management is further complicated when information is costly and/or imperfect. Standard optimization frameworks are extended to allow for coordination costs, games and cooperation, and risk allocation. When operating efficiently, water markets are often viewed as a desirable means of allocation because a market price incentivizes users to move resources from low to high value activities. However, early attempts at water trading have run into many obstacles. Case studies from the United States, Australia, Europe, and Canada highlight the successes and remaining challenges of establishing efficient water markets.