Trends in water market activity and price in the western United States



[1] Over 2000 water market transactions that occurred in the western United States from 1990 to 2003 were examined to learn who sold to whom and for what purpose, how much water was involved, and how much it sold for. The transactions show that much more water changes hands via leases than via sales of water rights. Public agencies and irrigators are the most common lessors, with lessees being fairly evenly distributed across types of buyers. However, with water rights sales, irrigators are by far the most common sellers and municipalities the most common buyers. Across the West in general, the number of leases has been rising in recent years, as have their prices. The prices of water right sales have also been rising, but the number of sales has not. The price of water is highly variable both within and between western states, reflecting the localized nature of the factors that affect water prices.