Examining the Demand for Ecosystem Services: The Value of Stream Restoration for Drinking Water Treatment Managers in the Llobregat River, Spain
Ecosystem services would be incorporated into decision making more often if researchers were to focus more on the demand for these services rather than the supply. This implies examining the economic, decision making and technological context of the end-user before trying to attribute economic values to well known biological processes. This paper provides an example of how this research approach for ecosystems services could unfold. In the Llobregat River in northeastern Spain, higher stream temperatures require water treatment managers to switch on costly water treatment equipment especially during warm months. This creates an opportunity to align the economic interests of downstream water users with the environmental goals of river managers. A restored riparian forest or an increase in stream flow could reduce the need for this expensive equipment by reducing stream temperatures below critical thresholds. We used the Stream Network Temperature Model (SNTEMP) to test the impact of increasing shading and discharge on stream temperature at the intake of the drinking water treatment plant. The value of the stream temperature ecosystem services provided by existing forests is €79,000 per year for the water treatment facility, while additional riparian forest restoration along the Llobregat River could generate economic savings for water treatment managers in the range of €57,000–€156,000 per year. Stream restoration at higher elevations would yield greater benefits than restoration in the lower reaches. Moderate increases in stream discharge (25%) could generate savings of €40,000 per year.
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