This study examines changes in willingness-to-pay (WTP) for improved water quality in the Narragansett Bay Watershed among recreational users and non-users under recent land use patterns (2001 – 2011) and future land use and point source pollution scenarios. Using the Integrated Assessment Model (IAM), we estimate that in 2001 overall water quality in zone 1 was 57 and in zone 2 was 65 [out of 100].
This effort builds on findings in the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program’s State of the Narragansett Bay and its Watershed report by linking recent changes in key pollutants entering the bay to human well-being. The study finds a WTP of $51 million and $38 million per year for recent water quality improvements achieved in the upper and lower watershed, respectively. Bacterial contamination was projected to significantly increase under the most rapid, uncontrolled development scenario. To avoid that outcome, significant new investments in wastewater treatment would be required (see results section for more information).
Many local stakeholders helped inform and strengthen this study’s approach. The quotations below reflect the priorities that emerged. The project team thanks all of the individuals and groups who provided feedback and suggestions throughout this process.
- “Long- and short-term benefits framing is important.” – Resilient Taunton Watershed Network
- “How much will open space/forests contribute to water quality in the Bay?” – Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
- “Scale is important to be relevant to decisions. Have a bi-state picture, but also a per-acre view if possible. Municipal scale is also relevant as this is where decisions are often made.” – Rhode Island Statewide Planning
- “Stormwater investments – what interventions get the most bang for the buck? Where should we prioritize limited money? Cost-benefit analysis.” – Blackstone Data Team
- “Anything that can tie to dollars and cents would be really useful.” – Congressional Staff of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
- “Need examples of how investment maintains/enhances water quality in the context of climate change.” – URI Coastal Institute