Transitioning to a water secure future in the Basin



This study aims to identify and analyse the impediments in water markets in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB). The identification of impediments in water markets in Australia will have international relevance; lessons learned will be applicable across a wide range of markets and solutions to improve water market efficiency will provide a wide range of net social benefits. Economists have long suggested the benefits of removing impediments to trade.

Project objectives

In particular, this project aims to explore: the impact of impediments and policy in water markets; how further water market products may increase water market efficiency; and the nature and sources of transactions costs in markets. Benefits from this project will enhance resilience and adaptation of irrigators to future climate change and water shortages, as well as providing future policy guidance.

Project outputs

Zuo A., Qiu F., Wheeler S (2019) “Examining volatility dynamics, spillovers and government water recovery in water markets in the Murray-Darling Basin”, accepted for publication 1/7/2019 in Resource and Energy Economics, ERA A.

de Bonviller, S., Wheeler S, Zuo A. (2019) "Is there evidence of insider trading in Australian water markets?" Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 63(2), 307-327, ERA/ABDC A.

Grafton Q, Wheeler S (2018) “The economics of water recovery in the Murray-Darling Basin”, Annual Review of Resource Economics, 10, 487-510, ERA B.

Loch, A., Wheeler S., Settre C. (2018) “Private Transaction Costs of Water Trade in the Murray–Darling Basin”, Ecological Economics, 146, 560-573. ERA/ABDC A.

Wheeler, S., Haensch, J., Edwards, J., Schirmer, J., & Zuo, A. (2018). Quantifying an integral ecology framework: a case study of the Riverina, Australia. Earth’s Future, 6(2), 192-212.

Wheeler S., Loch A., Crase L., Young M., Grafton Q. (2017) “Developing a Water Market Readiness Assessment Framework”, Journal of Hydrology, 552, 807-820. ERA A*.

Wheeler S., Zuo A. (2017) “The impact of drought and water scarcity on irrigator farm exit intentions in the Murray-Darling Basin", Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 61, 1-20. ERA/ABDC A.

Settre, C., Wheeler, S. (2017) “A century of intervention in a Ramsar wetland - the case of the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth”, Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, 24 (2), 163-183.

Settre C., Wheeler S. (2017) “Rebalancing the system - Acquiring water and trade”, in A. Horne, A. Webb , M. Stewardson, B. Richter & M. Acreman (eds) Water for the Environment: from Policy and Science to Implementation and Management, Elsevier, Ch. 18.

Settre C., Wheeler S. (2016) “Environmental Water Governance in the MDB of Australia: The movement from regulation and engineering to economic-based instruments”, in G. Gregoriou & V. Ramiah (eds) Handbook of Environmental & Sustainable Finance, Elsevier New York, pp. 67-91.

Wheeler S., Rossini P., Bjornlund H., Spagnoletti S. (2016) “The returns to investing in water in Australia”, inG. Gregoriou & V. Ramiah (eds) Handbook of Environmental & Sustainable Finance, Elsevier New York, pp. 371-384.

Wheeler S., Bark R., Loch A., Connor J. (2015) “Agricultural Water Management”, in A. Dinar, & K. Schwabe (eds) Handbook of Water Economics, Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 71-86.

Grafton RQ., Wheeler S.  (2015) “Water Economics”, in R. Halvorsen & D. Layton (eds) Handbook on the Economics of Natural Resources, Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 401-420.

Crase L, O’Keefe S., Wheeler S., Kinoshita Y. (2015) “Water Trading in Australia: Understanding the Role of Policy and Serendipity”, in K. Burnett, R. Howitt, J. Roumasset & C. Wada (eds) Routledge Handbook of Water Economics & Institutions, RFF/Routledge, pp. 296-313.

Wheeler S., Loch A., Edwards J. (2015) “Water Market Participation and Adaptation for an uncertain water future in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia”, in J.P. Palutikof, S.L. Boulter, J. Barnett & D. Rissik (eds) Applied Studies in Climate Adaptation, Wiley: Oxford, pp. 166-174.

Wheeler S., Bjornlund H., Loch A. (2014) “Water trading in Australia: Tracing its’ development and impact over the past three decades”, in K. William Easter & Qiuqiong Huang (eds) Water Markets for the 21st Century: What we have learned, Westview press, pp. 179-202.

Bjornlund H., Zuo A., Wheeler S., Xu W. (2014) “Exploring the Reluctance to Embrace Water Markets in Alberta, Canada”, in K. William Easter & Qiuqiong Huang (eds) Water Markets for the 21st Century: What we have learned, Westview press, pp. 215-238.

Loch A., Wheeler S., Adamson D. (2014) “Lessons for managing water in the Murray-Darling Basin”, in V. Squires, K. Daniell & H. Milner (eds) River Basin Management in the twenty-first century: People and Place, CRC/Francis and Taylor: Boca Raton, pp. 275-303.

Bjornlund H., Wheeler S., Rossini P. (2013) "Water Markets and Their Environmental, Social and Economic Impact in Australia". In Maestu, J. Ed. Water Trading and Global Water Scarcity: International Perspectives. RFF Press/Taylor and Francis/Routledge, pp. 68-94.

Wheeler S., Zuo A., Bjornlund H. (2013) “Selling Water to the Environment: Is it Sustainable for Irrigators?” in H. Bjornlund, C. Brebbia & S. Wheeler (eds) Sustainable Irrigation and Drainage IV: Management Technologies and Policies, WITPress: Southampton, pp. 29-39.

Zuo A., Wheeler S, Bjornlund H, Shanahan M. (2013) “The association between farm management strategies and irrigators’ farm profits over time in the MDB”, in H. Bjornlund, C. Brebbia, & S. Wheeler (eds) Sustainable Irrigation and Drainage IV: Management Technologies and Policies, WITPress: Southampton, pp. 447-458.

Bjornlund H., Wheeler S., Cheesman J. (2011) “Irrigators, water trading, the environment, and debt: Perspectives and realities of buying water entitlements for the environment”, in D. Connell & Q. Grafton (eds) Basin Futures: Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin, The Australian National University E Press: Canberra, pp. 291-302

Wheeler S., Schoengold K., Bjornlund H. (2016) “Lessons to be learned from groundwater trading in Australia and the United States”, in A.J. Jakeman, O. Barreteau, R.J. Hunt, JD. Rinaudo & A. Ross (eds) Integrated Groundwater Management: Concepts, Approaches and Challenges. Springer, pp. 493-517.

Zuo A., Wheeler S., Boxall P., Adamowicz V., Hatton-MacDonald D. (2016) “Measuring price elasticities of demand and supply of water entitlements based on stated and revealed preference data”, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 98, 314-332.

Grafton R.Q., Horne J., Wheeler S. (2016) "On the Marketisation of Water: Evidence from the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia", Water Resources Management, 30, 913-926

Wheeler S., Loch A., Zuo A., Bjornlund H. (2014) “Reviewing the Adoption & Impact of Water Markets in the MDB, Australia”, Journal of Hydrology, 518, 28-41.

Wheeler S. (2014) “Insights, lessons and benefits from improved regional water security in Australia” Water Resources and Economics, 8, 57-78.

Wheeler S., Zuo A., Hughes N. (2014) “The influence of water trade strategies and ownership on irrigation farm profitability”, Agricultural Systems, 129, 81-92.

Wheeler S., Zuo A., Bjornlund H. (2014) “Investigating the delayed consequences of selling water entitlements in the MDB”, Agricultural Water Management, 145, 72-82.

Zuo A., Brooks R., Wheeler S., Harris E., Bjornlund H. (2014) ‘Understanding Irrigator Bidding Behaviour in Australian Water Markets in Response to Uncertainty’, Water, 6, 3457-3477.

Bjornlund H., Wu X., Wheeler S. (2014) “A review of public and irrigator preferences for sharing water in Alberta”, Agricultural Water Management, 145, 171-180.

Bjornlund H., Wheeler S. (2014) “Exploring the socio-economic realities of sustainable water management in irrigation: an overview”, Agricultural Water Management, 145, 1-4.

Boxall P., Loch A., Wheeler S., Hatton-Macdonald D., Adamowicz W.L., Bjornlund H. (2014) “Irrigator preferences for water recovery budget expenditure in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia”, Land Use Policy, 36, 396-404.

Wheeler S., Bjornlund H., Zuo A. (2014) “Australian irrigators' recognition of the need for more environmental water flows and intentions to donate water allocations”, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 57 (1), 104-122.

Crisp P., Baker G., Wheeler S. (2014) “Agronomic and sustainability outcomes from compost application in South Australian citrus orchards”, Acta Horticulturae, 1018, 457-464.

Connor J., Franklin B., Kirby M., Loch A., Wheeler S. (2013) "Trading water to improve environmental flow outcomes", Water Resources Research, 49 (7), 4265-4276.

Wheeler S., Cheesman J. (2013) “Key findings from a Survey of Sellers to the Restoring the Balance Programme”, Economic Papers: a Journal of Applied Economics and Policy, 32, 340-352.

Lane-Miller C., Wheeler S., Bjornlund H., Connor J. (2013) “Acquiring Water for the Environment: Lessons from Natural Resources Management”, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 15, 513-532.

Wheeler S., Bjornlund H., Zuo A. (2013) “Australian irrigators' recognition of the need for more environmental water flows and intentions to donate water allocations”, Journal of Environmental Planning & Management, 57 (1), 104-122.

Bjornlund H., Zuo A., Wheeler S., Xu W., Edwards J. (2013) “Policy preferences for water sharing in Alberta, Canada”, Water Resources and Economics, 1, 93-110.

Wheeler S, Zuo A., Bjornlund H. (2013) "Climate Change Beliefs and Irrigator Adaptability in the Southern Murray-Darling Basin", Global Environmental Change, 23, 537-547.

Wheeler S., Garrick D., Loch A., Bjornlund H. (2013) 'Evaluating water market products to acquire water for the environment in Australia', Land Use Policy, 30, 427-436.

Wheeler S., Bjornlund H., Zuo A., Edwards J. (2012). "Handing down the farm? The increasing uncertainty of irrigated farm succession in Australia", Journal of Rural Studies, 28, 266-275.

Wheeler S., Zuo A., Bjornlund, H., Lane-Miller C. (2012). "Selling the farm silver? Understanding water sales to the Australian Government", Environmental & Resource Economics, 52 (1), 133-154.

Loch A., Bjornlund H., Wheeler S., Connor J. (2012) “Trading in allocation water in Australia: a qualitative understanding of irrigator motives and behaviour”, Australian Journal of Agricultural & Resource Economics, 56, 42-60

Project partners

Collaborating institutions:


The project (2013-16) was funded by the Australian Research Council under their Discovery program.

Tagged in Projects:Water policy, Projects:Resilient landscapes, Completed projects