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Cultural and Recreational Values for Environmental Flows in Mexico's Colorado River Delta


  • Ashley Kerna

    (Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, PO Box 210078, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0078, USA)

  • Bonnie Colby

    (Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, PO Box 210078, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0078, USA)

  • Francisco Zamora

    (#x2020;Colorado River Delta Legacy Program for the Sonoran Institute, Sonoran Institute, 100 N Stone Ave, Suite 400, Tucson, AZ 85701, USA)


Worldwide, aquatic ecosystems subsist on water leftover from agricultural, industrial, and municipal water uses. While bi-national agreements have temporarily provided water for the Colorado River Delta (Delta) in Mexico, dedication of water to support aquatic ecosystems is rare. High-level U.S. – Mexico negotiations are underway to consider whether and how to provide water for the Delta once the current pilot program ends in 2017. Better understanding of the value of aquatic ecosystems can be useful in securing water to sustain them. This paper reports research findings on values held by visitors from nearby Mexican communities for environmental flows in the Delta. Based on surveys conducted at five recreation locations, this contingent valuation methodology (CVM) study assesses visitors' willingness-to-pay (WTP) for an assured source of water to sustain the Delta's ecosystem and the recreational opportunities it provides. Results indicate strong support for Delta restoration, with the majority of respondents indicating positive WTP to ensure adequate amounts of water to sustain a healthy and vibrant Delta ecosystem. Econometric model results indicate a median WTP ranging from $97 to $168 MXN (approximately $7–$13 USD at the time of analysis) per car per entry. These values represent only a subset of recreational users, and recreation values are only one of many components of the ecosystem services provided by the Delta. While only a fraction of recreation value and total economic value, it is important to understand values held by local recreation visitors. These values gauge support for preserving aquatic ecosystems in nearby communities. Furthermore, values held in the local area affect water management and policy decisions regarding restoration of this unique aquatic ecosystem.

Suggested Citation

  • Ashley Kerna & Bonnie Colby & Francisco Zamora, 2017. "Cultural and Recreational Values for Environmental Flows in Mexico's Colorado River Delta," Water Economics and Policy (WEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 3(02), pages 1-26, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:wsi:wepxxx:v:03:y:2017:i:02:n:s2382624x16500351
    DOI: 10.1142/S2382624X16500351

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Edward B. Barbier, 2017. "Editorial — The Economics of Aquatic Ecosystems: An Introduction to the Special Issue," Water Economics and Policy (WEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 3(02), pages 1-6, April.
    2. Colby, Bonnie, 2020. "Acquiring environmental flows: ecological economics of policy development in western U.S," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 173(C).
    3. George Frisvold & Charles Sanchez & Noel Gollehon & Sharon B. Megdal & Paul Brown, 2018. "Evaluating Gravity-Flow Irrigation with Lessons from Yuma, Arizona, USA," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 10(5), pages 1-27, May.

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