Simulating water markets with transaction costs

Water Resour Res. 2014 Jun;50(6):4726-4745. doi: 10.1002/2013WR014493. Epub 2014 Jun 6.


This paper presents an optimization model to simulate short-term pair-wise spot-market trading of surface water abstraction licenses (water rights). The approach uses a node-arc multicommodity formulation that tracks individual supplier-receiver transactions in a water resource network. This enables accounting for transaction costs between individual buyer-seller pairs and abstractor-specific rules and behaviors using constraints. Trades are driven by economic demand curves that represent each abstractor's time-varying water demand. The purpose of the proposed model is to assess potential hydrologic and economic outcomes of water markets and aid policy makers in designing water market regulations. The model is applied to the Great Ouse River basin in Eastern England. The model assesses the potential weekly water trades and abstractions that could occur in a normal and a dry year. Four sectors (public water supply, energy, agriculture, and industrial) are included in the 94 active licensed water diversions. Each license's unique environmental restrictions are represented and weekly economic water demand curves are estimated. Rules encoded as constraints represent current water management realities and plausible stakeholder-informed water market behaviors. Results show buyers favor sellers who can supply large volumes to minimize transactions. The energy plant cooling and agricultural licenses, often restricted from obtaining water at times when it generates benefits, benefit most from trades. Assumptions and model limitations are discussed.

Key points: Transaction tracking hydro-economic optimization models simulate water marketsProposed model formulation incorporates transaction costs and trading behaviorWater markets benefit users with the most restricted water access.