In the growing political and economic tussles over access to water, agriculture is perceived as the low-value residual user. Experience shows that water conservation in agriculture does not drive transfers of water from agriculture to other sectors. Transfers occur in a variety of ways-including land and water purchase, appropriation by default as cities expand into peri-urban irrigated areas, competitive development, and water conservation investment in return for “saved” water. This mostly ad hoc set of mechanisms will lead to a framework of rules and practices that will gradually regularize the process. Under conditions of increasing competition the stakes are high for all current and prospective water users, and governments bear responsibility to ensure a level playing field for these processes to play out.