River pollution creates negative externalities to downstream water users. In this paper, we analyze how voluntary joint action of water users can improve pollution abatement when optimal treatment cannot be enforced. We model a transboundary pollution game with a unidirectional pollutant flow. Players are identical except for their location along the river. We find that, surprisingly, the location of coalition members has no impact on coalition stability. Location does, however, affect overall welfare. The more upstream the members of the coalition are, the higher is the overall welfare because the positive externalities of cleaning accrue to a larger number of downstream water users. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.