To the extent that wastewater management provides valuable services to those who either generate waste or have an interest in the quality of receiving waters, those individuals must have a willingness to pay for these services. Willingness to pay is defined as the maximum amount that would be paid for the level of service received rather than forego it altogether (all or nothing). Those who pay user charges demonstrate, by doing so, that their willingness to pay is at least as great as the charge paid. In fact, it may be much greater: the user charge merely establishes the lower bound. Estimates of willingness to pay can be performed by various indirect methods, such as econometric demand analysis (for those who pay user charges) or contingent valuation studies (for those who benefit from improved water quality).
Such studies are seldom done for wastewater systems but are potentially important. The results would indicate which groups receive benefits from improved wastewater management and what the approximate magnitude of those benefits may be. These results would also be useful in predicting public acceptance of new financing burdens, especially where large increases in financing requirements are expected. This information could be used to tailor financing strategies to the temporal and spatial distribution of anticipated benefits, thus minimizing the chances of placing unjustified burdens on any sector of the population.
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