IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

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

Listed author(s):
  • Tompkins, Jean-Marie
  • Hearnshaw, Edward J.S.
  • Cullen, Ross
Registered author(s):

    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.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society in its series 2011 Conference (55th), February 8-11, 2011, Melbourne, Australia with number 100720.

    in new window

    Date of creation: 2011
    Handle: RePEc:ags:aare11:100720
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    AARES Central Office Manager, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU, Canberra ACT 0200

    Phone: 0409 032 338
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:aare11:100720. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.