Valuing Flow and Water Dependent Ecological Resiliency under the Secure Water Act

Project ID: 8737
Principal Investigator: Christina Lasater
Research Topic: Ecosystem Needs
Funded Fiscal Years: 2013 and 2014
Keywords: ecological resiliency, secure water act, principles and guidelines, feasibility studies

Research Question

Q: What are the best methods for measuring economic value of flow and water dependent ecological resiliency and how can these methods be incorporated into Secure Water Act feasibility studies?

The Secure Water Act (SWA) Sec. 9503 P.L. 111-11 calls for the Secretary to establish a climate change adaptation program that assesses risks to water supply in each major Reclamation river basin due to climate change, and develop strategies to mitigate potential water supply changes. SWA authorizes analysis of impacts to water delivery, hydroelectric power generation, recreation at Reclamation facilities, fish and wildlife habitat, Endangered Species Act (ESA) species, water quality, flow and water dependent ecological resiliency, and flood control. Viable mitigation strategies may be further analyzed in SWA feasibility studies.

The Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines (P&G) make it clear that national economic development (NED) is the Federal objective and is therefore the primary consideration for Reclamation involvement in water resource development. The P&G require feasibility studies to recommend implementation of the alternative plan that maximizes net NED benefits, measured in dollars. A variety of methods are available for measuring the economic value of environmental goods and services and these methods have been applied to a variety of resources and ecosystem services such as fish and wildlife, recreation, and wetlands in terms of both use and non-use values. However, specific application of available methodologies for valuing flow and water dependent ecological resiliency are lacking.

The GOAL is to develop a framework for valuing flow and water dependent ecological resiliency and evaluate the best methods for demonstrating the economic benefit of alternative investments that explicitly consider monetary evaluation of ecological resiliency.

Need and Benefit

Given the requirement for NED evaluation in the P&G, having a framework and description of methodologies for valuing flow and water dependent ecological resiliency will help ensure proper consideration and comparison of alternatives that have this element or varying degrees of it. This is especially important to SWA feasibility studies and other traditional feasibility studies conducted within the Rural Water Program and elsewhere.

The WWCRA team has established an Ecological Resources Subgroup that is developing a framework for practitioners as part of the Impact Assessment (IA) phase of the WaterSMART Program. This framework will incorporate possible approaches for those conducting the IA to incorporate all four of the ecological resource components in an IA. The results of this work will consider the ecosystem sideboards and sensitivities that are unique to each major Reclamation river basin (as identified in SWA). These sideboards can then be used in the Basin Study and ultimately the SWA Feasibility Study to guide the study of ecological resources. This research will benefit the work the WWCRA Ecological Subgroup is conducting by providing a means to quantify economic impacts at the SWA Feasibility Study phase.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20