Science Inventory

Economic Support for Source Water Protection Decisions


Price, J., Matt Heberling, AND C. Nietch. Economic Support for Source Water Protection Decisions. Journal AWWA. American Water Works Association, Denver, CO, 110(9):56-61, (2018).


With growing interest in source water protection (SWP) as a means to avoiding expenditures at drinking water treatment plants, it is increasingly important to understand the costs and potential benefits of better watershed management. This paper, which is an invited feature article for the Journal American Water Works Association, describes the role economics has in estimating avoided treatment costs and determining whether SWP is a cost-effective.


When considering source water protection (SWP), public water systems (PWSs) face a lack of evidence-based information on how SWP interventions affect source water conditions and treatment costs. It is here that economics can help support SWP decisions. By quantifying the above relationships for various treatment systems and source water characteristics, PWSs can estimate avoided treatment costs and, in conjunction with cost information on SWP activities and in-plant treatment options, determine whether SWP is likely to be cost effective (i.e., the least cost alternative for meeting the desired objective). Where SWP may be cost effective, PWSs can then pursue more precise economic and hydrologic modeling specific to their treatment system and watershed. In this paper, we briefly review the state of knowledge regarding the relationship between treatment costs and source water conditions, with an emphasis on North American PWSs. We also highlight key knowledge gaps. Lastly, we discuss a research agenda that will aid PWSs in evaluating the efficacy of potential SWP programs.

Record Details:

Product Published Date:08/31/2018
Record Last Revised:06/04/2020
OMB Category:Other
Record ID: 342625