State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2012IL248B
Title: Measuring Public Preferences over Stormwater Management Outcomes in Illinois: Willingness to Pay and Willingness to Help
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2012
End Date: 2/29/2013
Congressional District: 15
Focus Categories: Economics, Hydrology, Law, Institutions, and Policy
Keywords: Stormwater management, values, flooding, water quality, aquatic habitat
Principal Investigator: Ando, Amy
Federal Funds: $ 30,075
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 60,578
Abstract: Problem: In urban areas, impervious surfaces increase stormwater runoff which causes environmental problems such as flooding, soil erosion and water pollution. The disruption to urban hydrology damages the quality of aquatic habitat in nearby rivers and streams. Conventional stormwater management has focused primarily on flood reduction, while a new generation of decentralized best-management practice (BMP) stormwater solutions yields ancillary benefits in the form of improved surface water quality, increased groundwater recharge, and improved aquatic habitat. The City of Chicago has programs to encourage use of BMPs such as green roofs and rain barrels. However, despite evidence of the environmental benefits and cost-effectiveness of BMPs and government efforts to promote BMPs, their use has been limited.

Objectives: The project will produce information about the values people place on different kinds of environmental improvements that can be accomplished with BMP stormwater approaches. The results of this project will also help policy makers understand people's attitudes about using decentralized stormwater solutions instead of conventional concrete infrastructure, and people's willingness to volunteer to help maintain such decentralized solutions. Empirical evidence of people's preferences over stormwater management control can help to shape the way policy makers design incentives when they intend to promote the use of new environmental technologies.

Methods: This paper uses a choice-experiment (CE) survey of households in the City of Chicago to estimate the values of multiple attributes of stormwater management outcomes, and to identify households' willingness to pay for different attributes of stormwater management controls or to volunteer to install or maintain such controls. We will mail surveys to 3,000 randomly selected residents of the City of Chicago. The survey will provide respondents with background information about stormwater problems and controls and then present them with several choice questions, each of which asks them to choose between a pair of hypothetical stormwater management projects that have varied values of the following attributes: the frequencies of street and basement flooding; the frequency of CSOs, surface water quality; aquatic habitat quality; cost to the household of the project; and time the household would have to devote to the project. Analysis of the hypothetical choices respondents make yields estimates of the values of the attributes. Our project suggests an addition to CE methodology: including hours of volunteer time as an attribute alongside monetary cost. This addition permits broader estimates of value where people have differential abilities to pay or volunteer depending on whether their biggest constraint is on time or on money. The experiment consists of two treatment groups. To evaluate the effect of having a time attribute in the features of a scenario, respondents in Treatment #1 will be presented with a variable scenario cost attribute, and respondents in Treatment #2 will be presented with a variable attribute that captures the time they would have to spend on stewardship of decentralized stormwater controls as well as the money-cost attribute. We will compare the total scenario value estimates from the two groups to quantify the effect that a second non-monetary "payment" attribute has on those estimates.

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