Valuation of Water Quality Change in Environment and Economy Context: Ecosystem Services across Gradients of Degradation and Local Economic Interest

EPA Grant Number: R836320
Title: Valuation of Water Quality Change in Environment and Economy Context: Ecosystem Services across Gradients of Degradation and Local Economic Interest
Investigators: Swallow, Stephen , Helton, Ashley , Kirchhoff, Christine , Liu, Pengfei , Towe, Charles , Vadas, Timothy M.
Institution: University of Connecticut
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: August 1, 2016 through July 31, 2019 (Extended to July 31, 2021)
Project Amount: $799,994
RFA: Water Quality Benefits (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water


The proposed research aims to value changes in water quality via a preference function model designed explicitly for calibration and adaptation to alternative study-sites. The work will address critical deficiencies with broad applicability and application of traditional benefit transfer following three specific objectives. First, we will measure the relative value of water quality investments and stream ecosystem restoration in sites across the spectrum of degradation. Second, we will measure how the value of water quality and ecosystem restoration is affected by the context of where the streams are relative to current and past economic activity especially jobs in pollution intensive industries versus other employment. Based on these primary studies we will use measures of personal environmental attitudes, measures of ecosystem/degradation context, and measures of local economic context to develop a framework guiding the applicability for transfer of benefits to alternative sites not directly studied.


This study uses a survey instrument to provide a cross-validation check that gauges transfer error by testing the convergent validity of transfer estimates derived from 16 primary study sites. We help to refine benefit transfer guidance for users of valuation data and models from our primary study sites, as well as offer more generalizable insights regarding potential benefits of investments in water quality along biophysical and socio-economic gradients.

Expected Results:

Determine the extent to which residents in primary study sites will value a defined increment in water quality improvement differently along a gradient of degradation, giving insight to show that residents may value the prevention of further degradation on moderately degraded sites compared to restoration in heavily degraded sites. Determine how a community’s position along the local economic and pollution gradient as well as water quality negatively may influence residents’ perceptions of water quality, their environmental attitudes, and therefore their value of water quality benefits. We will be able to derive water quality benefit estimates in a realistic, wide range of scenarios and allow the social economic conditions to influence water quality valuations in spatially different areas. This enables us – and users of our results - to reduce the transfer error.

Supplemental Keywords:

ecosystem, regionalization, habitat, integrated assessment, public policy, decision making, community-based, conjoint analysis, observation, non-market valuation, contingent valuation, survey, preferences, public good, socioeconomic, willingness-to-pay, compensation, conservation, modeling, monitoring, analytical, surveys, measurement methods;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2017 Progress Report
  • 2018