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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making 5 Translating Ecosystem Functions to the Value of Ecosystem Services: Case Studies INTRODUCTION Valuing ecosystem services requires the integration of ecology and economics. Ecology is needed to comprehend ecosystem structure and functions and how these functions change with different conditions. Both ecology and economics are required to translate ecosystem functions into the production of ecosystem goods and services. Economics is needed to comprehend how ecosystem goods and services translate into value (i.e., benefits for people; see also Figure 1-3). The two preceding chapters discuss much of the relevant ecological and economic literature. Chapter 3 focuses on the relevant ecological literature on aquatic and related terrestrial ecosystem functions and services, while Chapter 4 focuses on the economic literature on nonmarket valuation methods useful for valuing ecosystem goods and services. In this chapter, the focus is on the integration of ecology and economics necessary for valuing ecosystem services for aquatic and related terrestrial ecosystems. More specifically, a series of case studies is reviewed (including those taken from the eastern and western United States; see Chapter 1 and Box ES-1 for further information), ranging from studies of the value of single ecosystem services, to multiple ecosystem services, to ambitious studies that attempt to value all services provided by ecosystems. An extensive discussion of implications and lessons learned from these case studies is provided and precedes the chapter summary. Development of the concept of ecosystem services is relatively recent. Only in the last decade have ecologists and economists begun to define ecosystem services and attempted to measure the value of these services (see for example, Balvanera et al., 2001; Chichilnisky and Heal, 1998; Constanza et al., 1997; Daily, 1997; Daily et al., 2000; Heal, 2000a,b; Pritchard et al., 2000; Wilson and Carpenter, 1999). There is a much longer history of natural resource managers and economists evaluating “goods” produced by ecosystems (e.g., forest products, fish production, agricultural production). For example, in 1926, Percy Viosca, Jr., a fisheries biologist, estimated that the value of conserving wetlands in Louisiana for fishing, trapping, and collecting activities was $20 million annually (Vileisis, 1997). In the 1960s and early 1970s, pioneering work by Krutilla (1967), Hammack and Brown (1974), and Krutilla and Fisher (1975), among others, greatly expanded the set of “goods and services” generated by natural systems considered by economists to be of value to humans (e.g.,
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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making clean air, clean water, recreation, ecotourism). Economic geographers and regional scientists (e.g., Isard et al., 1969) examined spatial relationships among natural and socioeconomic systems. Recent work on ecosystem services has broadened the set of goods and services studied to include water purification, nutrient retention, and flood control, among other things. It has also emphasized the importance of understanding natural processes within ecosystems (e.g., primary and secondary productivity, carbon and nutrient cycling, energy flow) in order to understand the production of ecosystem services. Yet, as discussed throughout this report, for the most part, the importance of these natural processes in producing ecosystem services on which people depend has remained largely invisible to decision-makers and the general public. For most ecosystem services, there are no markets and no readily observable prices, and most people are unaware of their economic value. All too often it is the case that the value of ecosystem services becomes apparent only after such services are diminished or lost, which occurs once the natural processes supporting the production of these services have been sufficiently degraded. For example, the economic importance of protecting coastal marshes that serve as breeding grounds for fish may become apparent only after commercial fish harvests decline. By then, it may be difficult or impossible to repair the damage and restore the production of such services. Although there has been great progress in ecology in understanding ecosystem processes and functions, and in economics in developing and applying nonmarket valuation techniques for their subsequent valuation, at present there often remains a gap between the two. There has been mutual recognition among at least some ecologists and some economists that addressing issues such as conserving ecosystems and biodiversity requires the input of both disciplines to be successful (Daily et al., 2000; Holmes et al., 2004; Kinzig et al., 2000; Loomis et al., 2000; Turner et al., 2003). Yet there are few existing examples of studies that have successfully translated knowledge of ecosystems into a form in which economic valuation can be applied in a meaningful way (Polasky, 2002). Several factors contribute to this ongoing lack of integration. First, some ecologists and economists have held vastly different views on the current state of the world and the direction in which it is headed (see, for example, Tierney, 1990, who chronicles the debates between a noted ecologist and economist [Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon]). Second, ecology and economics are separate disciplines, one in natural science and the other in social science. Traditionally, the academic organization and reward structure for scientists make collaboration across disciplinary boundaries difficult even when the desire to do so exists. Third, as noted previously, the concept of ecosystem services and attempts to value them are still relatively new. Building the necessary working relationships and integrating methods across disciplines will take time. Some useful integrated studies of the value of aquatic and related terrestrial ecosystem goods and services are starting to emerge. The following section reviews several such studies and the types of evaluation methods used. This review begins with situations in which the focus is on valuing a single ecosys-
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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making tem service. Typically in these cases, the service is well defined, there is reasonably good ecological understanding of how the service is produced, and there is reasonably good economic understanding of how to value the service. Even when valuing a single ecosystem service however, there can be significant uncertainty about either the production of the ecosystem service, the value of the ecosystem service, or both. Next reviewed are attempts to value multiple ecosystem services. Because ecosystems produce a range of services that are frequently closely connected, it is often difficult to discuss the valuation of a single service in isolation. However, valuing multiple ecosystem services typically multiplies the difficulty of valuing a single ecosystem service. Last to be reviewed are analyses that attempt to encompass all services produced by an ecosystem. Such cases can arise with natural resource damage assessment, where a dollar value estimate of total damages is required, or with ecosystem restoration efforts. Such efforts will typically face large gaps in understanding and information in both ecology and economics. Proceeding from single services to entire ecosystems illustrates the range of circumstances and methods for valuing ecosystem goods and services. In some cases, it may be possible to generate relatively precise estimates of value. In other cases, all that may be possible is a rough categorization (e.g., “a lot” versus “a little”). Whether there is sufficient information for the valuation of ecosystem services to be of use in environmental decision-making depends on the circumstances and the policy question or decision at hand (see Chapters 2 and 6 for further information). In a few instances, a rough estimate may be sufficient to decide that one option is preferable to another. Tougher decisions will typically require more refined understanding of the issues at stake. This progression from situations with relatively complete to relatively incomplete information also demonstrates what gaps in knowledge may exist and the consequences of those gaps. Part of the value of going through an ecosystem services evaluation is to identify the gaps in existing information to show what types of research are needed. MAPPING ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONS TO THE VALUE OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: CASE STUDIES Despite recent efforts of ecologists and economists to resolve many types of challenges to successfully estimating the value of ecosystem services, the number of well-studied and quantified cases studies remains relatively low. The following section reviews cases studies that have attempted to value ecosystem services in the context of aquatic ecosystems. These examples illustrate different levels of information and insights that have been gained thus far from the combined approaches of ecology and economics.
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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making Valuing a Single Ecosystem Service This review begins with studies of the value of ecosystem services using examples that attempt to value a single ecosystem service. These cases provide the best examples of both well-defined and quantifiable ecosystem services and of services that are amenable to application of economic valuation methodologies. The best-known example of a policy decision hinging on the value of a single ecosystem service involves the provision of clean drinking water for New York City, which is reviewed first. Other examples include cases where ecosystems provide habitat for harvested fish or game species and cases where they provide flood control. In all of the cases reviewed in this section, the ecosystem service is well-defined, although there may be some scientific uncertainty surrounding quantification of the amount of the service provided. In some cases, adequate methods for valuing the single ecosystem service exist. Further, for some cases, such as the New York City example below, information about a single ecosystem service may prove sufficient to support rational environmental decision-making. In other cases, this will not be so, and further work to assess a more complete set of ecosystem services will be necessary. Under no circumstances, however, should the value of a single ecosystem service be confused with the value of the entire ecosystem, which has far more than a single dimension. Unless it is kept clearly in mind that valuing a single ecosystem service represents only a partial valuation of the natural processes in an ecosystem, such single service valuation exercises may provide a false signal of the total economic value of the natural processes in an ecosystem. Providing Clean Drinking Water: The Catskill Mountains and New York City’s Watershed One of the best-studied water supply systems in the world is the one that provides drinking water for more than 9 million people in the New York City metropolitan area (Ashendorff et al., 1997; NRC, 2000a; Schneiderman, 2000). New York City’s water supply includes three large reservoir systems (Croton, Catskill, and Delaware) that contain 19 reservoirs and 3 controlled lakes. This system, including all tributaries, encompasses a total area of 5,000 km2 with a reservoir capacity of 2.2 × 109 m3. This complex array of natural watersheds requires a wide range of management to sustain the water quality supplied to the reservoirs and aqueducts. Historically, these watersheds have supplied high-quality water with little contamination. However, increased housing developments with onsite septic systems, combined with nonpoint sources of pollution such as runoff from roads and agriculture, have posed threats to water quality. Further significant deterioration of water quality would force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require New York City build a water filtra-
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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making tion system1 to ensure that drinking water delivered to consumers would meet federal drinking water standards. By 1996, New York City faced a choice: it could either build water filtration system or protect its watersheds to ensure high-quality drinking water. The cost of building a new, larger filtration system necessary to meet water quality standards was estimated to lie in the range of $2 billion to $6 billion. Moreover, the city estimated that it would spend $300 million annually to operate the new filtration plant. Together, the costs of building and operating the filtration system were estimated to be in the range of $6 billion to $8 billion (Chichilnisky and Heal, 1998). Instead of investing in a water filtration facility, New York City opted to invest more in protecting watersheds. Maintaining water quality in the face of increased human population densities in the watershed required increased protection of riparian buffer zones along rivers and around reservoirs. These zones help to regulate nonpoint sources of nutrients and pesticides from stormwater runoff, septic tanks, and agricultural sources. In 1997 the city received “filtration avoidance status” from the EPA by promising to upgrade watershed protection. The 1997 Watershed Memorandum Agreement resulted from negotiations among the State of New York, New York City, the EPA, municipalities within the watershed, and five regional environmental groups. The agreement provided a framework for compliance with water quality standards and contained plans for land acquisition through mutual consent, watershed regulations, environmental education workshops, and partnership programs with community groups. For example, a farmer-led Watershed Agricultural Council provides programs for the approximately 350 dairy and livestock farms in the watershed to minimize nutrient input from agricultural runoff (Ashendorff et al., 1997). Under this agreement, New York City is obligated to spend $250 million during a 10-year period to purchase lands within the watershed (up to 141,645 hectares). In this part of the overall response, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection land acquisition program purchases undeveloped land from willing sellers rather than relying on condemnation and the power of eminent domain. Property rights to develop land in the watershed rests in the hands of local landowners. In some cases these rights are regulated by local ordinances. New York City’s 1953 Watershed Rules and Regulations give the city some authority over watershed development to limit water pollution. Decades-old resentment remains among some residents of upstate watersheds because earlier land acquisitions to build the reservoirs displaced entire communities. Moreover, recent concerns about security of the reservoirs have also polarized residents whose road access has been limited. Exactly what legal rights New York City has and what legal rights local municipalities, and local landowners 1 In the late 1990s, the plan was to build one centralized plant for the Catskill/Delaware portion of the larger watershed (see NRC, 2000a for further information). However, it has since been determined that the Croton portion of the watershed also has to build a separate filtration plant.
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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making have to make decisions is not fully resolved. The long-term costs of riverbank protection, upkeep of sewage treatment plants by municipalities and overall maintenance costs of this approach remain uncertain. On the other hand, a series of regulations prohibiting certain types of development in certain places (e.g., areas in close proximity to watercourses, reservoirs, reservoir stems, controlled lakes, wetlands) was agreed upon. The city together with the Catskill Watershed Corporation developed a comprehensive geographical information system to track land uses and to analyze runoff and storm flows resulting from precipitation. Runoff is sensitive to connections among stream network, and to the amount of impervious surface in the watershed (e.g., roads, buildings, driveways, parking lots), which results in increased peak flows that can cause flooding and bank erosion (Arnold and Gibbons, 1996; Gergel et al., 2002). To minimize these effects, new construction of impervious surfaces within 300 feet of a reservoir, rivers, or wetland is prohibited. Road construction within 100 feet of a perennial stream and 50 feet of an intermittent stream is also prohibited. Septic system fields cannot be located within 100 ft of a wetland or watercourse or 300 feet of a reservoir because these onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems do not work effectively in saturated soil. Septic fields also interfere with the natural nutrient processing in floodplains, wetlands, and riparian buffer zones along streams. Funds are available to subsidize upgrades of local wastewater treatment plants and septic systems throughout the watershed. There are 38 wastewater treatment plants in the watershed that are not owned by New York City. Overall, New York City projected that it would invest $1 billion to $1.5 billion in protecting and restoring natural ecosystem processes in the watershed (Ashendorff et al., 1998; Chichilnisky and Heal, 1998; Foran et al., 2000; NRC, 2000a). Incentives for landowners to improve riparian protection through conservation easements and educational outreach efforts were combined with management of state-owned lands to minimize erosion and protect riparian buffers. In this case, it was not necessary to value all or part of the services of the Catskill watershed; it was merely necessary to establish that protecting and restoring the ecological integrity of the watershed to provide clean drinking water was less costly than replacing this ecosystem service with a new water filtration plant. As discussed in Chapter 4, Shabman and Batie (1978) suggest that a replacement cost approach can provide a “proxy” valuation estimation for an ecological service if the alternative considered provides the same service, the alternative compared is the least-cost alternative, and there is substantial evidence that the service would be demanded by society if it were provided by that least-cost alternative. In the Catskill case the proposed filtration plant would provide very similar services (more on this below). Of course, the city will have to provide clean water somehow. So these conditions are met and the cost of replacing the provision of clean drinking provided by the watershed with a filtration plant, less the cost of protecting and restoring the watershed, can be thought of as a measure of the ecosystem service value to New York City as a water purification tool. If, however, demand side management can reduce demand for water
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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making at less cost than it costs to provide the water via the filtration plant, then demand side management costs would provide the relevant avoided costs. Both methods—natural processes in watersheds and a water filtration plant—are capable of providing clean water that meets drinking water standards. This case also appears to provide clear environmental policy direction. For New York City, it is likely to be far less costly to provide safe drinking water by protecting watersheds, thereby maintaining natural processes, than to build and operate a filtration plant. Further, protecting watersheds to provide clean water also enhances provision of other ecosystem services (e.g., open space for recreation, habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species, aesthetics). As discussed throughout this report, such ecosystem services are arguably far harder to value economically. Since these values add to the value of protecting watersheds for the provision of clean water, which is the preferred option even without consideration of these additional values, it is not necessary to establish a value for these services for policy purposes. Thus, protecting watersheds can be justified on the basis of the provision of clean drinking water alone. Despite the appearance of being a textbook case for valuing a single ecosystem service, several issues make the answer to ecosystem valuation less obvious than at first glance. The replacement cost approach assumes that the same service will be provided under either alternative. In reality, it is unlikely that watershed protection and filtration will provide identical levels of water quality and reliability over time because engineered systems can fail—especially during storms when heavy flows overwhelm the system. Likewise, natural watersheds can also vary in their effectiveness in response to severe storm flows or other disturbances (Ashendorff et al., 1997). Managed watersheds can require some maintenance costs to sustain ecosystem services such as clean up of accidental spills or fish kills to prevent pollution or control of invasive species such as zebra mussels (Covich et al., 2004; Giller et al., 2004). Both engineered and ecosystem approaches are vulnerable but they differ in the types of uncertainty associated with each investment. New York City’s watershed investment plan includes several maintenance costs such as thorough, multistaged monitoring of water quality and disease surveillance that triggers active management and localized water treatment. Baseline data on water quality and biodiversity of stream organisms in the watershed (e.g., aquatic insects) are being collected by the Stroud Water Research Center (2001) annually to determine if the city’s recent management efforts are effective. By reducing the risk of contaminants from various sources, the city can minimize use of disinfectants at the final water treatment stages. Reducing chemical use saves money directly and may also have health benefits since chlorination can produce halogenated disinfection by-products (e.g., chloroform, trihalomethane) in drinking water, especially in ecosystems with high levels of organic matter (Symanski et al., 2004; Villanueva et al., 2001; Zhang and Minear, 2002). Some of these by-products may be carcinogens. On the other hand, filtration may provide higher-quality drinking water because chlorination
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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making is not completely effective in killing pathogens, particularly when there are high levels of suspended materials (Schoenen, 2002). Despite the regulations and the comprehensive framework contained in the city’s watershed protection plan, considerable uncertainties exist about whether the plan can sustain high quality water supplies over the longer-term. Enforcement of the regulations and monitoring the rapid rate of suburban growth constitute a major challenge, and these development pressures in the area may increase the opportunity costs of watershed protection. Construction in the headwaters of streams, permitted under the plan, may result in increased runoff rates and erosion. Filling tributary channels with sediments can take place incrementally, with each step occurring at a small scale. In addition, numerous small-scale changes may transform the watershed in detrimental ways over time without sufficient oversight and long-term planning. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to review permits. However, without site-by-site reviews of small projects (less than four hectares), allowable incremental alterations can have significant cumulative effects on small streams. Decreased stream density (stream length per drainage basin area) would occur if natural stream channels were replaced by pipes and paved over for development, resulting in loss of the essential ecological processes of organic matter breakdown and sediment retention (Meyer and Wallace, 2001; Paul and Meyer, 2001). Additional uncertainties might impact decision-making, besides the adequacy of protection in the watersheds. Model uncertainty that arises from imperfect understanding of ecosystem function and the translation to ecosystem services is a major issue for most ecosystem valuation studies. In this case, there is model uncertainty because the hydrologic modeling used for determining water supplies is affected by the definition of spatial and temporal boundaries. For example, other municipalities in New York and New Jersey use water from the Catskills. Changes in water diversions from the Catskill Mountains can affect outflows to the Delaware River and modify salinities in the lower sections of the river used by Philadelphia (Frei et al., 2002). Given the additional uncertainties of future regional droughts, floods, and extreme temperatures, as well as acid rain and nitrogen deposition from atmospheric sources, planners must consider the range of intrinsic natural variability in decision-making. Planners can cope with aspects of model and parameter uncertainty by carefully monitoring land uses in the basin and incorporating environmental data into any new regulations that might be required. A long series of studies on nutrient budgets and acid deposition provides some essential baseline information for the Catskills (e.g., Frei et al., 2002; Lovett et al., 2000; Murdoch and Stoddard, 1992, 1993; Stoddard, 1994). Other locations may lack sufficient information, and thus, considerable sources of uncertainty will limit the analysis of complete replacement costs. In this case, the provision of clean drinking water supplies through the protection of natural processes in watersheds rather than through the human-engineered solution of building and operating a water filtration system offers an
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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making estimate of the value of restoring an ecosystem service that provides clear advice to a policy decision. Replacement costs for natural processes in watersheds providing clean drinking water are estimated to be in the neighborhood of $6 billion to $8 billion, which is far higher than estimates of the cost necessary to protect the watersheds. Because the policy question is relatively specific (i.e., whether to build a filtration plant or to protect watersheds), currently available economic methods of ecosystem service valuation are sufficient. Even in this example however, obtaining a precise estimate of the value of the provision of clean water through watershed conservation is probably not possible given existing knowledge. First, it is not clear that the two approaches, filtration and watershed protection, provide the same level of water quality and reliability. There are numerous dimensions to the provision of clean drinking water, such as the concentrations of various trace chemicals, carcinogens, and suspended solids, natural variance of water quality, and the adequacy of supply. It is unlikely that the two approaches will deliver water that is identical in all of these dimensions under all conditions. Second, there is no guarantee that protecting watersheds will continue to be successful. Increased development pressure on lands outside the riparian buffer zones or inadequate enforcement may require building a filtration system at some point in the future. If the watershed protection plans prove to be insufficient in the future, the investments in protection will still likely reduce future costs of building filtration plants because the quality of the water to be treated will be enhanced through these land-use programs. Finally, it should be emphasized that (1) the value of providing clean drinking water is only a partial measure of the value of ecosystem services provided by the watershed, and (2) replacement cost is rarely a good measure of the value of an ecosystem service. Even if water quality benefits alone did not justify watershed protection, such a finding would not justify abandoning efforts at watershed protection. To make that decision would require a broader effort to measure the value of the wider set of ecosystem services produced by Catskill watersheds. It is less clear that estimates to answer this broader question are sufficiently precise to provide policy-relevant answers (see Chapters 2 and 6 for more on framing). Replacement cost methods can be used as a measure of the value of ecosystem services only when there are alternative ways to provide the same service and when the service will be demanded if provided by the least cost alternative. Replacement cost does not constitute an estimate of value of the service to society; it represents the value of having the ability to produce the service through an ecosystem rather than through an alternative method. Other Surface Water Examples Other cities have used similar strategies to invest in maintaining the ecological integrity of their watersheds as a means of providing high quality drinking water that meets all federal, state, and local standards. Boston, Seattle, San
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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making Francisco, and Greenville, South Carolina, are other examples where the value of ecosystem services could be estimated using a replacement cost approach for building and operating water treatment plants that are roughly equivalent in the quality of drinking water supplied (NRC, 2000a). The costs of producing safe drinking water were traditionally derived from production cost estimates associated with engineering treatments. Filtration plants were built to remove organic materials, and then some form of chemical purification was used to control microorganisms. Engineers generally considered natural ecosystems such as rivers and lakes mostly from the viewpoint of volumes, transport systems, resident times, dilution, and natural “reoxygenation.” In other words, they viewed many natural ecosystems as large pipes rather than as complex habitats for a diverse biota. Yet even viewed strictly through the lens of water supply systems, protecting natural processes within ecosystems may be superior to engineering solutions, and such a result may be sufficient for decision-making purposes. Replacement cost estimates for provision of clean drinking water, however, provide an estimate of just one source of value and should not be confused with the complete value of ecosystem services provided by watersheds. Further, as discussed in Chapter 4, replacement cost is a valid approach to economic valuation only in highly restricted circumstances—namely, that there are multiple ways to achieve the same end and the benefits exceed the costs of providing this end. Provision of Drinking Water from Groundwater: San Antonio, Texas In contrast with the Catskill case, there has been a lack of studies to date on the economic value of the Edwards Aquifer (see also Box 3-5) that supplies drinking water to San Antonio as well as water for irrigation and other uses. Groundwater supplies approximately half of America’s drinking water (EPA, 1999). It is relied on heavily in some parts of the arid West where surface waters are scarce. The long-term supply of groundwater is a concern in some of these areas (Howe, 2002; Winter, 2001). For example, depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is creating great uncertainties about future water supplies throughout a large region of the central United States (Glennon, 2002; Opie, 1993). Similarly, depletion of groundwater aquifers in the Middle Rio Grande Basin is creating uncertainty about the future supply of drinking water for Albuquerque, New Mexico (NRC, 1997, 2000b). Aquifers generally provide high quality drinking water, but pollution lowers water quality in some areas, such as the Cape Cod Aquifer where there are threats from sewage and toxic substances leaching into groundwater from the Massachusetts Military Reservation (Barber, 1994; Morganwalp and Buxton, 1999). The long-term sustainability of groundwater depends on matching extraction with recharge (Sanford, 2002). It is often difficult to predict the timing and rate of recharge because of complications of local geology, time lags, and climate uncertainties. Recharge of the porous karstic limestone that characterizes
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Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision–Making the Edward Aquifer occurs primarily during wet years when precipitation infiltrates deeply into the soils and underlying rock (Abbott, 1975). Drought conditions have complex effects on lowering recharge rates while simultaneously tending to increase the demand for water. The greatest source of uncertainty about groundwater recharge is the range of natural interannual variability in precipitation and land-use changes. Increasing demands from a growing population and the difficulty in predicting climate change raise questions about the adequacy of groundwater supplies in arid regions (Grimm et al., 1997; Hurd et al., 1999; Meyer et al., 1999; Murdoch et al., 2000). Aquifer depletion has both economic and ecological consequences. The costs for deeper drilling and pumping increase as groundwater is depleted. Removal of water in the underground area may cause collapse of the overlying substrata. These collapses decrease future storage capacity below ground and may cause damage on the surface as areas subside, buckle, or collapse. In some areas, depleted groundwater may cause the intrusion of low-quality water from other aquifers or from marine-derived salt or brackish waters that could not readily be restored for freshwater storage and use. Depletion of groundwater supplies creates uncertainty and generally is offset by supplies from surface waters. An interesting exception is San Antonio (the ninth largest city in the United States) that relies primarily on groundwater for its source of municipal water. An outbreak of cholera in 1866 from polluted surface waters prompted the City of San Antonio to switch to groundwater from the Edwards Aquifer. The aquifer is estimated to contain up to 250 million acrefeet of water with a drainage area covering approximately 8,000 square miles. The average annual recharge is estimated at approximately 600,000 acre-feet of water (Merrifield , 2000). Given this large supply, the Edwards Aquifer plays a major role in the economy of San Antonio and south-central Texas (Glennon, 2002). In some parts of this region, clean, free-flowing springs and artesian wells provide drinking water without the cost of pumping and with minimal treatment. San Antonio built its first pumping station in 1878. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has monitored aquifer recharge rates since 1915 and water quality monitoring began in 1930. In 1970 the Edwards Aquifer was designated a “sole source aquifer” by the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Currently, more than 1.7 million people rely on the Edwards Aquifer for water. Industrial and agricultural demands on the Edwards Aquifer have increased, and the city has planned for new reservoir storage as part of its water supply several times over the last two decades. As the demand for water in the area has grown, concerns have arisen over both the quantity and the quality of groundwater available (Wimberley, 2001). Depletion also raises the specter that adequate supply will not be available for future demand at any price. The $3.5 billion-a-year tourist industry in San Antonio is centered on the city’s River Walk, which relies primarily on recycled groundwater (Glennon, 2002). Uncertainties over the long-term availability of water make long-term planning problematic and threaten long-term investments. For example, aquaculture companies (e.g., Living Waters Artesian Springs,
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