SNAPP TEAM:Sharing Water
Can multi-sector benefits from water transaction programs be measured in a standardized way, and if so, might transparency around the benefits help drive multi-sector collaboration?

In the Western United States, water rights are rigidly allocated by seniority, but over-allocation of water for agricultural, municipal, and industrial use severely depletes stream flows, degrades ecosystems, and poses economic risk to those dependent on a reliable water supply. This team investigated whether a novel approach to contractual water agreements could overturn competition between users, advance a multiple-benefit approach that restores stream flows, reduce the economic risk associated with water shortages, and maintain agricultural economies.


OUR APPROACH: This multidisciplinary team developed a suite of standardized indicators for measuring the benefits and impacts of water transaction programs.

Team Status: COMPLETED
Team Critical Challenge: Food and Freshwater

Measuring the Benefits of Water Transaction Programs

The quantitative indicators developed by the team to evaluate water transaction programs include:

  • Environmental (water in an amount, location and time to achieve conservation objectives)
  • Municipal (reliable and flexible water supply)
  • Agricultural (neutral or increased rural economic output as water use declines)
  • Basin Drought Readiness (ability to respond to drought conditions in a watershed)

The indicators will help water managers understand and quantify potential tradeoffs and synergies among alternative water transaction strategies and programs for different water sectors. They can also provide an understanding of how water sharing agreements affect overall basin resilience to drought.


Water Sharing Dashboard

This interactive tool calculates indicator values and graphically displays how they change over time as a result of water transactions. Users may input data directly, or prompt the programs to access publicly available data such as USGS streamflow and USDA land use databases. This application allows users to enter and store data and track the progress of their water transaction programs as they work towards environmental, economic, and water security goals.



“Instead of competing over scarce water, previously competing sectors could pool financial resources to conduct fewer transactions to achieve greater overall benefits: restoration of rivers, streams and groundwater-dependent systems; assured water supplies for cities; and sustainable rural economies.”

– Eloise Kendy, Team Lead

Key Products
Water sharing dashboard: Easily input data and evaluate river flow

This tool allows users to enter and store data and track the progress of their water transaction programs in achieving environmental, economic, and water security goals.

Gallatin Valley water exchange

This management plan applies the concepts set forward by this SNAPP team to conduct a hydrogeological and economic analyses of the Gallatin Valley Water Exchange in Missouri’s Upper Basin.

Water transactions for streamflow restoration, water supply, and rural economic vitality in the Western US

This Journal of the American Water Resources Association paper was 1st runner-up for the 2019 AWRA Boggess Award. It describes the indicators the team developed and applied to existing water transaction programs in Oregon and Nevada.

Water Transaction Evaluation

Designed to be a holistic approach for managers from multiple sectors, this tool quantitatively measures how water transaction programs alter and improve the flow of water resources using common metrics from the fields of conservation, agricultural economics, business, industry, and municipal utilities.

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Eloise Kendy
The Nature Conservancy
Bruce Aylward
Ecosystem Economics
Bonnie Colby
University of Arizona
Peter Culp
Culp & Kelly
Aaron Derwingson
The Nature Conservancy
Will Dicharry
The Nature Conservancy
Ted Grantham
US Geological Survey (USGS)
Clay Landry
WestWater Research
Lain Leoniak
City of Bozeman
Season Martin
The Nature Conservancy
Ron Nelson
Nevada and Central Oregon Irrigation Districts
Emily Powell
The Nature Conservancy
Andrew Purkey
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Brian Richter
The Nature Conservancy; University of Virginia
Leslie Sanchez
Tufts University
Leon Szeptycki
Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
Laura Ziemer
Trout Unlimited
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