|Project Status Reports:|
For the year 1997
Objective of Research: Measure attitudes toward and willingness to pay to protect more diverse, self-regulating ecosystems along the South Platte River.
Progress Summary/ Accomplishments
During the first year, three biologists worked with two economists to define what the ecosystem services were being provided by the Platte River and how these could be conveyed in words and figures. Background data from USGS and USFWS as well as a site visit were conducted. Two of the biologists have summarized their analysis of the South Platte in a forthcoming paper in the journal called Environmental Management. The study section of the South Platte River was also selected based on an actual policy proposal (e.g., the Centennial Land Trust). This stretch of river goes from Kersey to Fort Morgan, Colorado. The first key accomplishment, was definition of ecosystem services that could be provided by the Platte River. Those services are: dilution of wastewater, natural purification of water, erosion control and habitat for fish and wildlife.
Once the key ecosystem services were identified, next we developed management actions necessary to realize increased level of ecosystem services. These management actions included: a five mile wide conservation easement along 45 miles of the South Platte River, downstream of Greeley. This area is 300,000 acres in size. Next, restoring native vegetation along the river in the form of buffer strips and eliminating cropland and cattle grazing in the buffer strip area. Livestock grazing would be allowed in the remainder of the conservation easement. The payment mechanism was an increase in household water bill. The interdisciplinary team's worked jointly to develop drawings and narrative that conveyed the concept of increased ecosystem services. An initial set of drawings illustrating a natural level of ecosystem services as compared to the current condition of degraded ecosystem service were prepared.
To test the validity of these drawings and narrative to convey the desired concepts, we presented them at two focus groups in Denver and one in Greeley. The individuals attending the focus groups were asked to write down their description of what each diagram indicated. We asked them to point out any elements that were not clear. After each focus group, we made modifications to the diagrams and the narrative wording. We found that including a summary diagram that was a composite of all of the ecosystem services presented individually helped to improve comprehension.
PRETESTING OF IN-PERSON SURVEYS
After further revisions after the focus group, an entire survey script and revised diagrams were prepared. The team reviewed this and additional changes made. We pre-tested the entire script and drawings on four individuals, two of which served as interviewer training. Further changes were made and we believe we have a fairly effective script and diagrams to elicit household willingness to pay for increasing ecosystem services in the Platte River.
At the time we received the grant, EPA removed the third year of funding where we had proposed full scale implementation of the survey. However, we had sufficient funds and CSU provided graduate student support to allow us to conduct 98 in-person interviews during the spring and summer of 1998.
SYNOPSIS OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES BEING VALUED IN SURVEY
(1) restoring native vegetation buffer strips along streams to increase ecosystem services.
(2) Leaving more water in the South Platte River.
This shift in water use can be seen by comparing the two pie charts.
The top pie chart, Shows Current Water Use where 75% of water supply is now primarily for agriculture. Additional waterflows in the river can be obtained by: --Purchasing water rights from agricultural users ; --paying farmers to grow crops that use less water ;--convert cropland away from the river into fenced pastureland. Farmers would make at least as much income, if not more, from selling the water and growing less water intensive crops or switching to livestock. (Irrigated Ag goes from 75% to 50% and instream flow goes from (17%) to 42%.
The second change needed to increase ecosystem services is to make changes land management. Land Management actions necessary to restore Ecosystem Services are illustrated on the map.
Along 45 river miles of the South Platte River shown on the map, the government would purchase development rights and conservation easements on both sides of the river over a 10 year period from willing farmers (5 miles on either side for a total of 300,000 acres shown on the map).
Conservation easements keep the land in private ownership but would pay farmers to manage this land to improve wildlife habitat and water quality. For example, cows would be fenced out of the area along the river banks so native vegetation could regrow and the stream banks could be stablized. This area will be restored to natural vegetation such as grasslands, wetlands and streamside forests. Some areas would be replanted with native vegetation. The revegetated streamside would: reduce erosion; increase natural water purification by plants; improve water quality and river habitat ; increase native fish populations so they will not go extinct; provide public access to restored natural areas for wildlife viewing including 5 miles of hiking trails.
SUMMARY OF PRELIMINARY RESULTS
Using the dichotomous contingent valuation method, the respondents were randomly asked if they would be willing to pay one of 12 different monthly dollar amounts ranging from $1 per month to $100 per month. A logit statistical model was estimated on this data and attitudes of the respondents toward water management. The resulting mean monthly willingness to pay was Mean WTP = $20.48/month per household with a 95% confidence interval of $19.96 --$21.02, for the increase in ecosystem services on this 45 mile stretch of the South Platte River.
Strange, Elizabeth , Kurt Fausch and Alan Covich. in press. Sustaining Ecosystem Services in Human Dominated Watersheds: Biohydrology and Ecosystem Processes in South Platte River Basin. Environmental Management
Kent, Paula and John Loomis. Economic Value of Ecosystem Services. October 21. Dept. of Agricultural and Resource Economics Seminar Series, Colorado State University
Kent, Paula and John Loomis. Economic Value of Restoring Ecosystem Functions. Poster Session, South Platte River Forum, 9th annual meeting, Longmont, Colorado. October 28-29, 1998
Masters thesis will be completed by Paula Kent in the Dept. of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University
Manuscript will be submitted to the journal Ecological Economics and paper will be submitted for presentation at the International Water and Resource Economics Consortium meeting being held with the University Council on Water Resources.