Australia’s Water Markets: Intended Benefits and Unintended Consequences

Water trading in Australia has developed progressively over the past three decades. Today, there are well-established, sophisticated open markets, where water is freely bought and sold. This structure is a key mechanism for simultaneously managing water scarcity, supporting economic efficiency, and ensuring sufficient water resources to sustain wetlands, rivers, and other parts of the environment. The markets function as a cap-and-trade system, where the volume of water that can be extracted or sold by an owner is capped on an annual basis and further reassessed on a monthly basis, depending on rainfall. Assigning value to water in this way allows it to move freely to more economically productive short- and long-term uses. It also provides an incentive for irrigators to be more efficient with their water use.

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Increasing Water Access Begins with Improving Representation

Across the United States, historically underserved communities, such as in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas or southern California, lack regular access to clean drinking water and sewage treatment. These groups, typically Hispanic labor populations or Native American tribes, face barriers to achieving the same access to water as nearby municipalities. Irrigation districts often control water in rural areas, with minimal oversight regarding expanding service areas to include low-income, unincorporated communities.

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Chief Impact Officer

Blue Access currently seeks a full-time Chief Impact Officer (CIO) to support our work on priority issues in water and sustainable investing. We identify and address water quality and access issues in underserved communities domestically and globally and invest in innovative financial approaches that solve the problem.

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