This report compares evaluation frameworks for selecting landholder proposals to improve water quality. A water quality tender performed in the Burdekin region in Northern Australia in 2007/2008 was used as a case study. Tender bids can be assessed using an inputs-based best management practice scorecard or an outputs-based auction metric. Where landholder proposals are rated by inputs-based criteria, the scorecard approach, and other variants of multi-criteria analysis are commonly applied. Output-based approaches are typically applied in water quality and conservation tenders. This approach uses an environmental benefits index to summarise the cost-effectiveness of each proposal. The case study evaluation reported in this paper shows how multi-criteria analysis-type assessments are flawed. It demonstrates how public funding efficiency can be more than doubled by using auction metrics to assess landholder water quality improvement proposals.