Dwindling streams throughout the West are threatening fish and wildlife populations, recreational angling and boating opportunities, and the health and beauty of riparian ecosystems. As populations continue to grow, so too does the need to remove water from streams, rivers, and other waterways to meet urban needs. The dilemma is how to protect instream flows and still meet growing demand for out-of-stream uses that are critical to local economies.

The solution: water markets. For decades, PERC has been a leading proponent of using water markets to resolve water disputes — and the approach is working. Federal and state agencies and conservation groups dedicated to restoring stream flows are increasingly turning to markets to connect willing buyers and sellers of water rights. Throughout much of the West, water rights can now be bought, leased, or donated for environmental purposes, thanks in part to PERC’s pioneering work in this area.

Water markets have expanded significantly over the past two decades. Yet in many states, cumbersome regulations as well as other legal and political barriers hinder more widespread use of water markets. PERC continues to promote water markets as a way to allow competing users to cooperate rather than fight, encourage conservation, and help alleviate the economic and environmental effects of water scarcity now and in the future.