Spot water markets and risk in water supply


  • Javier Calatrava,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departamento de Economía de la Empresa, Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, Paseo Alfonso XIII no 48, 30203 Cartagena, Spain
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  • Alberto Garrido

    1. Departamento de Economía y Ciencias Sociales Agrarias, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain
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*Corresponding author. Tel.: +34 968 325 906; fax: +34 968 325 433.
E-mail (J. Calatrava).


Water availability patterns in semiarid regions are typically extremely variable. Even in basins with a highly developed infrastructure, users are subject to unreliable water supplies, incurring substantial economic losses during periods of scarcity. More flexible instruments, such as voluntary exchanges of water among users, can help users to reduce risk exposure. This article looks at the effects of spot water markets on the economic risk caused by water availability variations. Our theoretical and empirical risk analyses are based on the random profits of water users. Profit probability density functions are formally and graphically characterized for both water sellers and buyers under several possible market outcomes. We conclude from this analysis that, where water supply is stochastic, water markets unambiguously reduce both parties' risk exposure. The empirical study is conducted on an irrigation district in the Guadalquivir Valley (Southern Spain), where there is a high probability of periods of extreme water scarcity. Water demand functions for the district representative irrigators and a spatial equilibrium model are used to simulate market exchanges and equilibrium. This programming model is combined with statistical simulation techniques. We show that the profit probability distribution of a representative irrigator is modified if water exchanges are authorized, leading to risk reductions. Results also indicate that if the market were extended to several districts and users that are subject to varying hydrological risk exposure, extremely low-profit events would be less likely to occur. In sum, we show that exchanging water in annual spot markets can reduce farmers' economic vulnerability caused by water supply variability across irrigation seasons. These results support the water policy reform carried out in Spain in 1999 to allow for voluntary water exchanges among right holders.