Updated Web Site Shows Economic Potential of Lake Water Cleanup

Catherine Kling; ckling@iastate.edu
Joseph Herriges; jaherrig@iastate.edu
Sandy Clarke; sclarke@iastate.edu

February 22, 2008

Recreationists, policymakers, and community leaders can find a resource for decisions about lakes water quality improvement at the Iowa Lakes Valuation Project Web site, redesigned and relaunched this month at www.card.iastate.edu/lakes/.

The Iowa Lakes Valuation Project is a collaboration of Iowa State University economists and ecologists to estimate the benefits and economic impacts of water quality improvement in Iowa's lakes. The project is funded by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Catherine Kling and Joseph Herriges, professors in the economics department at Iowa State, have led the project. Herriges explains that this approach is meant to put solid scientific data and analysis into the hands of public officials and citizens. "We hope the Web site and reports we've provided will help those who are faced with questions about the condition of Iowa lakes," says Herriges, "including what attracts visitors, and whether investments in improving water quality will be worth the effort."

Visitors to the Web site can browse over 130 lakes in the system through a regional map of Iowa, choose a specific lake in a drop-down menu, or find lakes listed by county.

A new feature of the Web site estimates the ripple effects of expenditures on water quality to local economies. The feature uses an estimate of average trips to each lake taken from survey data and calculates potential economic values such as the average spending, labor income, and job effects that could result if a cleanup project were undertaken for the lake. This analysis was provided by Iowa State economics professor Daniel Otto.

The average number of trips used in the economic assessment comes from the now completed survey series. From 2002 to 2005, more than 4,000 respondents answered questions about their trips to Iowa lakes, what lake qualities were most important to them, and how much they would be willing to pay for water cleanup. This data is available in the "Usage and Resources" section for each lake listing.

The researchers found that the survey respondents ranked clean water above all else in determining which Iowa lakes they would visit.

On the Web site, physical measurements of lake quality are available at the "Water Quality" section for each lake. Measures include chlorophyll, cyanobacteria, phospherous, and a secchi depth measure of water clarity. These data were collected by a team led by John Downing, professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology at Iowa State.

The Web site was created and is maintained by a team at the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development. The research is ongoing, and new information will be added to the Web site as it becomes available.