Dr. Colby focuses on the neuroeconomics* of collaborative problem-solving processes and incentive-based agreements to address natural resource conflicts. Her research, teaching and outreach emphasize climate change adaptation, water supply reliability and negotiated agreements to resolve environmental disputes. Colby has provided invited testimony to state legislatures, tribal councils, federal courts and the U.S. Congress. She works with public agencies, private firms and NGOs to develop and implement economic strategies to address regional resource challenges, and provides trainings for attorneys, engineers, public officials and resource user groups.

Dr. Colby has authored over one hundred journal articles and eight books, including Braving the Currents: Resolving Conflicts Over the Waters of the American West; and Risk & Resilience: The Economics of Climate, Water, and Energy in the Arid Southwest.

* Neuroeconomics studies human choices and processing of multiple alternatives, incorporating neuroscientific discoveries to guide models of individual and collective behavior and design of effective collaborative problem-solving processes.


  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin

Awards & Honors

  • Distinguished Scholar Award, Western Agricultural Economics Assoc.
  • Outstanding Research Scientist Award, University of Arizona
  • Outstanding Publication Award, National Academy of Sciences
  • Lead Economist, Kinship Conservation Leadership Training Program
  • Warren Hall Medal, Universities Council on Water Resources
  • Founding Member, Colorado River Research Group, Blue Ribbon Expert Panel
  • Women of Impact Award, University of Arizona, 2023

Classes Taught

  • AREC 479/579, Economic Analysis of Water, Food & Environ. Policies
  • AREC 575, Incentive-Based Resource Policies & Environmental Markets

Recent Publications

B. Colby, Teaching Water Resource Economics for Policy Analysis, Applied Economics Teaching Resources, 2023. 

McGreal*, B. and B. Colby, Effects of Economics and Climatic Factors on Arid Agricultural Water Use, Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 2023.

Colby, Bonnie G. and H. Hansen*, Colorado Basin Incentive-Based Urban Water Policies: Review and Evaluation, Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Vol 55: 1098-1115, 2022.

Colby, B. 2020. Acquiring Environmental Flows: Ecological Economics of Policy Development in Western U.S. Ecological Economics 173: 106655.

Isaaks*, R., & Colby, B. 2020 Empirical Application of Rubinstein Bargaining Model In Western U.S. Water Transactions. Water Economics and Policy (1): 1950010

Young*, R., Colby, B. and Thompson, G. 2019. Tribal Water Rights, Community Economies, and Adaptive Water Institutions in the Western United States. Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research 9 (1): 74-102.

Colby, B. and R. Isaaks*. 2019. Water Trading: Adaptation, Innovations and Modeling. Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education 165 (1): 76-88.

Kendy,E., Aylward, B., Ziemer, L., Richter, B., Colby, B. 2018. Water Transactions for Streamflow Restoration, Water Supply Reliability, and Rural Economic Vitality in the Western United StatesJournal of the American Water Resources Association 54 (2): 487-504.

Deol*, S. and Colby, B.G. 2018. Economies of Tribal Nations: Water Rights, Agriculture and Gaming. Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education 163 (1)45-63.

*indicates co-author is Colby Graduate Student