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Evaluating the sustainability of impounded river systems and the cost-effectiveness of dam projects: An ecosystem services approach

Author

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  • Tompkins, Jean-Marie
  • Hearnshaw, Edward J.S.
  • Cullen, Ross

Abstract

In recent times, there has been increasing demand in the Canterbury region of New Zealand for the abstraction of water from rivers. The impact of this demand has lead to unacceptable minimum river flows and has adversely affected river ecology. In an effort to resolve these issues dams have been constructed. To evaluate the impact of these dam projects on all river values, an ecosystem services approach is developed. This ecosystem services approach coupled with various evaluation methods are applied for the purposes of assessing the cost-effectiveness of the Opuha Dam and the sustainability of the Opihi river system now modified by the Opuha Dam. To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of this dam project cost utility analysis is applied through the development of an ecosystem services index (ESI). The index is constructed from the aggregation of normalized indicators that represent each ecosystem service and preferential weights of each ecosystem service. The evaluation of sustainability is considered both according to weak and strong criteria. Weak sustainability is evaluated by a non-declining ecosystem services index over time. Strong sustainability is evaluated by the thresholds or safe minimum standards where an ecosystem service, as represented by an indicator, should not pass below. Fifteen ecosystem services provided by the Opihi river were identified and data for forty-two indicators was compiled to assess the provision of these services pre- and post-dam. Fifteen regional and six local stakeholder representatives were interviewed to elicit preferential weights for each ecosystem service. Assessment of both the ESI and safe minimum standards indicates that since dam construction the river has progressed towards both weak and strong sustainability in its provision of ecosystem services. The cost-effectiveness of the dam however was poor. While further work remains to refine the approach, namely to develop more effective indicators of river ecosystem services, the work does present a novel method to evaluate the impacts of dams on river systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Tompkins, Jean-Marie & Hearnshaw, Edward J.S. & Cullen, Ross, 2011. "Evaluating the sustainability of impounded river systems and the cost-effectiveness of dam projects: An ecosystem services approach," 2011 Conference (55th), February 8-11, 2011, Melbourne, Australia 100720, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aare11:100720
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    File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/100720
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. de Groot, Rudolf S. & Wilson, Matthew A. & Boumans, Roelof M. J., 2002. "A typology for the classification, description and valuation of ecosystem functions, goods and services," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 393-408, June.
    2. Begoña Álvarez-Farizo & Nick Hanley, 2006. "Improving the Process of Valuing Non-Market Benefits: Combining Citizens’ Juries with Choice Modelling," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 82(3), pages 465-478.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pamela Kaval & Marjan van den Belt, 2017. "The Organizing Framework of Ecosystem Services and its use in River Management," Working Papers in Economics 17/22, University of Waikato.
    2. Borimnejad, Vali & Salimian, Fatemeh, 2014. "Investigation of Socio-Economic and Environmental Effects of Taleghan Dam Using Structural Equation Modeling," International Journal of Agricultural Management and Development (IJAMAD), Iranian Association of Agricultural Economics, vol. 4(3), September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cost utility analysis; dam projects; ecosystem services; impounded river systems; indicators and sustainability.; Environmental Economics and Policy; Q15; Q25; Q27; Q51; Q58; Q57;

    JEL classification:

    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water
    • Q27 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Issues in International Trade
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics

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