Water rights are currently receiving increased attention from scholars and policymakers due to the growing understanding that
ill-defined water rights impair efficient use. In South Africa smallholder irrigation faces problems of low water use efficiency
and cost-recovery of government investments. This study uses contingent ranking to analyse the willingness to pay of
smallholder irrigators for changes in the water rights system. The results indicate that smallholders are prepared to pay
considerably higher water prices if these are connected to improvements in the water rights system. By segmenting the
population it was also shown that the importance attached to water rights dimensions varies in each segment. While lower
institutional trust and lower income levels, lead to a lower willingness to pay for transferability, experiencing water shortage
increases this willingness to pay. Such information is valuable in guiding policy makers in the future design of water rights.