Mechanisms for Addressing Third-Party Impacts Resulting From Voluntary Water Transfers

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This research uses laboratory experiments to test alternative water market institutions designed to protect third-party interests. The institutions tested include taxing mechanisms that raise revenue to compensate affected third-parties, and a free market in which third-parties actively participate. We also discuss the likely implications of a command-and-control approach in which there are fixed limits on the volume of water that may be exported from a region. The results indicate that there are some important trade-offs in selecting a policy option. Although theoretically optimal, active third-party participation in the market is likely to result in free-riding that may erode some or all of the effic iency gains, and may introduce volatility into the market. Fixed limits on water exports are likely to result in a more stable market, but the constraints on exports will result in lower levels of social welfare. Taxing transfers and compensating third-parties offers a promising balance of efficiency, equity and market stability.

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University of Massachussetts