Environmental Market Specialists

our mission and values

We aim to facilitate the creation of effective water markets that provide benefits for all stakeholders. We understand water markets, including water markets within the unique context of SGMA. 

A water market is much more than an electronic bulletin board or sophisticated trading software. A market is a complex interaction of individuals and institutions. We have learned this in the trenches, working on actual water markets in California since 2014. 

We believe that well-designed water markets must look different in different locations. 

Good market design must address local conditions including the unique goals and concerns of local stakeholders.  

Well-designed markets must mitigate adverse third-party impacts of trade, including impacts to Disadvantaged Communities and Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems. Well-designed markets must prevent Market Power, the ability of powerful individuals or institutions to restrict others from fully participating in the market. 

We offer a process as opposed to a product.  

There is no off-the-shelf solution that will meet the unique needs of a particular basin. The rules and structure of a particular market must be tailored to local conditions. Generating buy-in from diverse stakeholders and guarding against cheating and other adverse impacts is essential. 

Matthew Fienup PhD

“When you invite growers into the process of designing policy, you’ll get innovative and creative solutions.”
In 805conversations by Mark Sylvester, May 3, 2017         

who we are

Matthew is the founder and CEO of Environmental Market Specialists and H2Omarkets.com. He is an environmental economist who has been working on the design and implementation of water markets in California since 2014.  

Matthew is a central figure in the Fox Canyon Water Market, the first groundwater market implemented in California under the Sustainable Groundwater Market (SGMA). 

Matthew led grassroots outreach among growers in the region before being chosen to chair the Fox Canyon Water Market Group, a formal stakeholder group that includes agricultural, urban and environmental water users. He facilitated seven months of deliberation after which the group unanimously approved a set of recommendations regarding the rules and operating mechanisms for the market.

Matthew was chosen by Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency to serve as exchange administrator for the Fox Canyon Water Market, a role that he has reprised for the past 5 years. Matthew also designed the custom electronic trading platform currently used in the market.

During the 2019/2020 water year, the Fox Canyon Water Market enjoyed significant success, with 87% of eligible participants enrolling in the market and 47% of enrolled parties participating in bids and offers to sell water. A single market transfer in 2020 allowed one farming operation to avoid over $350,000 in penalties for over pumping. 

Matthew completed his PhD at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara, where he specialized in applied econometrics, the economics of land use and environmental markets. He returned to school to pursue his PhD after running a small business in Ventura County for more than a decade. 

His other specialties include California Natural History, technical rock climbing and photography. Matthew graduated summa cum laude from the Brooks Institute of Photography and spent more than 15 years working as a professional climbing guide. 

more about Fox Canyon

The articles below describe the genesis, design, and implementation of the Fox Canyon Water Market. Click the title to view an article.

Heard S., Fienup M., Remson E. (2021). The first SGMA groundwater market is trading: The importance of good design and the risks of getting it wrong. Calif Agriculture 75(2). 50-56. 

Heard, S., E.J. Remson, M. Fienup and S. King. (2019). SGMA’s First Groundwater Market: An Early Case Study from Fox Canyon. The Nature Conservancy, San Francisco, CA.

Fienup, M. & Terry E., (2019). Ventura farmers take charge, designing first-of-its-kind water market. Spotlight, Fall, 12-13.

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