Water quality is declining in many parts of the world due to land-use change, pollution, and other stressors. In addition to the ecological impacts of these changes, water quality also affects the provision of multiple ecosystem goods and services including human health, recreation, and livelihoods. Investments designed to protect or restore water quality can be expensive and decision-makers must weigh the costs of new regulations against the public benefits provided by clean water. In order to make informed decisions regarding the management of our land and water resources, we need information on the ways that changes in water quality affect human well-being and the economic value of those changes. In Chapter One I address this gap by introducing a comprehensive framework for the valuation of water quality-related ecosystem services. In Chapter Two I apply this framework to an investigation of land-use change and consequences to groundwater quality and find that grassland conversion to agriculture is likely to result in significant costs to private well owners. In Chapter Three I use geo-tagged social media to assess visitation patterns to recreational lakes and find that lake users visit clear lakes more frequently and travel further to lakes with greater water quality. Using interdisciplinary approaches that are both generalizable and scalable, my work highlights the real costs associated with changes in water quality and in doing so addresses an important information gap needed to support environmental decision-making.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2013. Major: Natural Resources Science and Management. Advisor: Steve Polasky. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 93 pages, appendices 1-3.
Keeler, Bonnie L..
Water and well-being: Advances in measuring the value of water quality to people.
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