Economic Benefits of Watershed Restoration
The primary economic difficulty that watershed restoration faces is that there are relatively few markets for its products. In economic-speak, this is a market failure in the provision of watershed restoration. Because of this market failure, collective action, often in the form of government intervention, usually occurs in order to pay for restoration activities. Many government programs, and society at large, typically require the benefits of an activity to outweigh its costs. Thus it is important to quantify the economic benefits arising from watershed restoration. Measured by damage caused, willingness to pay, political referenda, averted expenditures, travel costs incurred, and changes in housing values, researchers consistently conclude that watershed restoration has significant economic benefits. Watershed restoration projects have other economic impacts as well, directly and indirectly employing many people, and potentially contributing to the long-term viability and growth of communities. However, restoration advocates face hurdles in justifying restoration on economic grounds due to the vague nature of nonmarket valuation, long timescales required for achieving a positive return on investment in certain restoration projects, and unknown incremental benefits of watershed restoration in increasing the natural amenity qualities of communities.